Workers cautious of minimum wage increase

Posted Online: July 12, 2014, 2:10 pm
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By Tyler Langan
Local minimum-wage workers would love a pay hike, but say they're nervous that it could result in the loss of jobs and increase the cost of living.

In November, voters will be asked to vote -- in a non-binding advisory referendum -- on whether to raise the minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $10 for workers older than 18.

Bill Polley, an associate economics professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb, said increasing the minimum wage could increase unemployment among those seeking minimum-wage jobs, because "it puts the business in a situation where it either has to raise the prices on what it's selling or cut back hours."

Stefan Dipple, who has worked in retail and service, said if the minimum wage is increased, he thinks the cost of food and services will increase along with it.

"It would just basically increase the cost of goods because the higher-ups don't want it to get into their money, so they'll raise the prices on the products," said Mr. Dipple, who works at Jimmy John's in Davenport.

He said he would consider looking for jobs in Illinois if the minimum wage increased, but doesn't want to see jobs cut because of a wage hike.

"I'm 26 years old," he said. "I can't pay back student loans because I'm working for $7.75, $8 an hour. It's almost impossible just to get by between paychecks. I mean, how am I supposed to pay for anything else?

"It's kind of a Catch-22 situation," Mr. Dipple said, adding that if the minimum wage is increased, a few jobs likely will be cut to offset the cost.

Increased costs also are a concern for Patrick Martinez, a brewer at Bent River Brewing in Rock Island. "Big corporations will raise prices whenever they want to," he said. "If they're not making their money, they're just going to raise prices."

Mr. Martinez said he would vote for a minimum wage increase, but would like a solution that wouldn't potentially increase the cost of living.

Ben Moon, who works in the kitchen at Miss Mamie's restaurant in Moline, said independent businesses like Miss Mamie's likely will increase prices to customers or cut back his hours.

"It's kind of like a two-edged sword," he said. "I do look at it from the perspective of, 'I'm making more money,' but the business I'm working at is losing that extra money."


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