As the general election draws ever closer, Main Street businesses are grappling with the idea of a higher federal minimum wage. Momentum for an increase is building. Currently 29 states and Washington, D.C., have wage floors above the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, and both major party presidential candidates have expressed support for a federal wage hike.
The federal minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has spoken out in support of a $12 wage at the federal level and $15 an hour at state and local levels when economic conditions permit. Meanwhile, Republican nominee Donald Trump has called for a new federal minimum wage of $10 an hour. Congressional Democrats have been pushing for $12 an hour by the year 2020, but, with a Republican majority in place, their efforts have stalled.
Separately, four states are considering raises for workers on November 8th: Arizona, Maine, and Colorado have $12 on the ballot, while Washington State is taking up a wage of $13.50 an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Those initiatives have Sherry Wuebben of La Crosse, Wisconsin, concerned. The owner of St. Joseph Equipment, an agriculture equipment distributor, she pays her 90 workers between $14 and $15 per hour to start. An increase in the federal floor would cause her to have to scale up nearly 30 percent.
"Our cost of living here in the Midwest is much lower: housing is lower, education is lower, gas is lower, childcare is lower, all of these things are lower," said Wuebben, a third-generation business owner. "We are not on par with the different coasts, we are Middle America."
No matter which side of the debate entrepreneurs fall on, they are certainly thinking about how wage hikes may impact their business and workforce. New data from Paychex, a small business payroll and benefits provider, finds that 47 percent of small companies rated the minimum wage increase as "important or very important." What's more, 64 percent of respondents said they supported increasing the federal minimum wage, while only 36 percent said they opposed a hike.