Small Biz Owners Praise Minimum Wage Hike


8-13-07, 9:40 am

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (PAI)--For Lew Prince, co-owner of the small business Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis, the recent hike in the minimum wage makes economic sense.

“It means more money in the hands of people who are going to spend it,” he said. “Low minimum wages do NOT help small business. Small business owners know keeping workers is easier and cheaper than finding and training new workers. And small business owners know the longer an employee stays with you--the more they know about your business and your customers--the higher their productivity.'

Prince is one of around 800 small business owners who are defying economic orthodoxy, and the powerful National Federation of Independent Business lobby in Washington, to step forward and praise the recent increase in the minimum wage. And that’s not the only issue where they’re parting ways with the rest of business and with the Republican Party.

Indeed, they’ve created Business for Shared Prosperity, which describes itself, including its Business for a Fair Minimum Wage project, as “a new network of forward-thinking business owners, executives and investors committed to building enduring economic progress on a strong foundation of opportunity, equity and innovation.”

Creation of the group marks another break in the anti-worker corporate monolith erected by the NFIB, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, the National Restaurant Association and their ilk.

A prior break came with creation several years ago of the U.S. Business Industrial Council, a group of smaller factory firms that works closely with the AFL-CIO Industrial Unions Council in lobbying against unfair “free trade” treaties.

While neither Business for Shared Prosperity nor USBIC has the size or the clout of larger business lobbies and their GOP allies, their presence indicates occasionally working men and women can find some sort of support in the corporate field.

That’s certainly true of the minimum wage, where a wide range of small business owners not only stepped forward to praise the first step--and the coming two stages--in the 3-stage increase in the minimum, but some urged it go higher.

The first hike, of 70 cents an hour on July 24, took the minimum wage to $5.85. The bigger business lobbies and their GOP handmaidens had blocked a hike for more than a decade, but the AFL-CIO, the union movement, low-income workers and new the Democratic-run Congress rammed it through, over an initial veto by anti-worker GOP President George W. Bush.

Two later increases will raise the minimum to $7.25 by mid-2009. Amy Ventura, co-president of Storm Graphic Arts in Montclair, Va., says that’s not enough.

'Even the higher rate of $7.25 is an insult to workers and employers,' says Ventura, whose home Prince William County Chamber of Commerce named her business its 2006 Business of the Year. 'Yes, small business owners must spend wisely, but this means paying our workforce a fair wage if we expect quality work. I want the federal government to recognize hard work and raise the minimum wage so everyone who works can support themselves and their families.'

Other members of the new group include Costco, which is unionized, Addus Health Care, ABC Home, and Fire & Ice Restaurants.

“Business can make a profit without keeping workers in poverty,” adds John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority. “Most business leaders recognize we need to focus our energies in building a strong, competitive 21st-Century economy that creates the jobs of the future. A minimum wage that promotes stability and economic prosperity is a necessary component of progress. It is time traditional organizations who claim to represent small businesses recognize this.”

From International Labor Communications Association and Press Associates Inc.

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