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Business groups speak against mandatory minimum wage hikes

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Leaders of four Wisconsin business associations spoke out against mandatory minimum wage hikes Wednesday.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, and The Wisconsin Grocers Association held a press conference in Madison explaining their opposition to a mandatory increase of the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

MWC’s Scott Manley says they sponsored a poll by The Tarrance Group, which found people like the concept until they understand raising the minimum wage would cost jobs.  “They did a 50-state analysis of what an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 would do, and in Wisconsin, the midrange impact that they project would be a loss of more than 27,000 jobs.”  Those polled had a 53% support rate initially, but on the follow up questions, support fell to 39% if raising the minimum wage cost jobs.

Brandon Scholz is the President and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association. He says wage hike supporters don’t understand what that mandate really means. He says it’s not just one wage scale affected, it’s every wage scale in your company.  “You can’t leave the employee who’s making $8.25. That employee gets moved. You can’t take the employee who’s making $9.50 and leave that wage. You have to make that (for example) $11.00, and you take the person at $10.50 and you have to make it a $12.00, and at each point along the wage scale, you have to raise it because if you don’t, you’ve sent the message that says you really don’t have to do much, you just have to wake up and we’ll give you a raise.”

Scholz says raising the minimum wage is also not an incentive to work. He also says the expense clobbers businesses because you have to earn that revenue, which means raising prices for consumers in a tough economy. Scholz says if businesses want to pay above minimum wage, let them, but don’t mandate it. He says the market will dictate what businesses can afford to pay in staff costs.

Bill G. Smith is the National Federation of Independent Business Wisconsin Chapter State Director. He says 92% of their members have 20 or fewer employees. Smith says we have to realize the money isn’t there, and somebody has to pay for that wage increase. Smith says that is often the employee through fewer work hours or job cuts.  “Raising the minimum wage may be a politically attractive policy option, but it’s harmful to the very people the policy makers intend to help.”

Democratic Representative Cory Mason from Racine authored the Assembly Bill to raise the minimum wage, and there is a companion bill in the Senate. Most Democrats including Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke support raising the minimum wage.

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