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Politics & Government

Minimum wage debate begins in General Assembly

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Delaware could join other states increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour.


But the bill faces backlash from small business owners as it starts to make its way through the state legislature.


Supporters of raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 argue it will lift people out of poverty. 


That group includes John Richard Jannelli with Delaware United.


“This is not some radical revolutionary proposal. It’s not communism or socialism. It’s about restoring dignity to work. We’re calling for a gradual increase to a $15 minimum wage which is exactly what President Biden supports.”


The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Jack Walsh, says according to studies, if minimum wage tracked with inflation and productivity, it would be over $24 per hour.


Opposition at Wednesday’s Senate Labor Committee meeting came from the small business community, which says now is not the time to raise the minimum wage as they cope with a pandemic-induced recession.


Carrie Leishman is the president of the Delaware Restaurant Association.


“We still have ten thousand restaurant workers unemployed and their voices matter — because they are not making minimum wage right not, they’re making zero.”


Other business owners complained they wouldn’t be able to survive if the minimum wage went up, especially during a pandemic-induced recession.


But some of the bill’s supporters argue small businesses shouldn’t be in business if they can’t pay their employees a living wage.


Walsh says this increase is feasible because it rises over time, giving businesses a chance to adapt. The first increase would not come until the beginning of next year.


Supporters also counter that businesses turn to the ‘it’s not the right time’ argument every time there's a push to raise the minimum wage - recession or not. 


The bill cleared the committee and heads to the Senate floor Thursday.


Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.


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