Raising the minimum wage is not a new idea. But we need to get serious now. There is a bill before the legislature that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. There are many benefits to this.
It would help Vermont workers. It would help families. It would help the Vermont economy. And, yes, it would help businesses in Vermont.
Many people of all ages work for $12.50 per hour. The numbers are sobering. Nearly 45 percent of all Vermont women earn less than $12.50 per hour. And 10 percent of Vermonters live in poverty. A rise in the minimum wage helps to give everyone a fair chance.
It helps children living in homes where the primary provider earns less than $15 per hour. In fact, 43,000 Vermont children live in such a home. Children in households with higher incomes are healthier, do better in school, and earn more as adults and have happier, more successful households themselves. Children deserve the best chance we can give them.
When people make more money they spend more, and money circulates throughout the economy. Employees that make more money change jobs less frequently. Less turnover means less recruitment and training costs.
So what’s the downside? Whenever raising the minimum wage is proposed the reflexive response is it will cost jobs. Employers will cut their workforce. Rather than getting a raise, workers will lose their jobs. These dire predictions never materialize. There may be a few jobs lost but they are quickly regained. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. After all, the minimum wage has been gradually raised over many, many decades. Has the sky fallen? No. But the benefits are real and measurable.
We should do this now. There are bills before the legislature. I urge every fair-minded Vermonter to contact his or her legislator to express support for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Bill Kuch, Springfield