Bennington businesses reflect on minimum wage increases


BENNINGTON>>Things are looking up for lowest paid employees on Friday when the state minimum wage will increase from $9.15 to $9.60.

Due to the legislation signed in 2014 by Governor Peter Shumlin, the wage will be raised each year until it hits $10.50 in 2018, according to a release.

Last year, minimum wage sat at $8.73 and increased to $9.15 for this year. Next, it'll go from $9.60 to $10, and so forth.

"The increase in the minimum wage should not have an immediate impact on manufacturing as the vast majority of those jobs pay above 2015 and 2016 minimum waged," Peter Odierna of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation said. "The state's primary incentive, The VT Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) has a wage threshold that is directly tied to the VT minimum wage so therefore the threshold in that program will increase modestly."

Mike Madison of Madison Brewery (428 Main Street) doesn't see the wage increase affecting the pub in the new year.

"Pretty much everyone is above that," he said. Some hostesses need to go up, but for the most part it won't affect us."

Madison explained that other prices will go up each year the minimum wage does, while cut-backs in some areas will also have to be made.

"If it keeps going up, everything else will have to go up," he said. "Prices on the menu and drink prices will compensate for that. It will effect us a great deal."

Vermont ties with Connecticut for having one of the highest minimum wages in the country behind Washington D.C., Oregon, and Washington, according to Bank Rate.

As stated by the Vermont Department of Labor, 3,200 jobs have been added since the wage increase law was put into effect a year ago.

Matt Harrington, executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce acknowledges the national transition with a scope on returning from a long period of economic decline.

"I think we all like the idea of giving workers a higher income. A person who earns more hopefully spends more and the economy recovers. The problem arises when we ask our businesses to bear the burden of the increase when they too are slowly and carefully moving out of a long recession."

Harrington also thinks that businesses shouldn't have to possess the burden of wage increases as low-income workers need it most.

"If we decide as a nation to increase minimum wage in order to give low-income workers and their families more cash, an understandable desire given the financial struggles of these families, then we as a nation should bear that cost, not only pass it off onto businesses."

Kevin's Sports Pub & Restaurant in North Bennington also exceeds minimum to pay its employees.

"I'm an eternal optimist, so I hope it doesn't affect us much," Co-owner Kevin Lynch said. "We'll just have to add the cost onto our products."

In the future, with more gradual increases, Lynch said that people will adapt.

"I don't think it'll impact the local economy much," he said. "People will just get adjusted to it."

For more information visit the Vermont Department of Labor.

Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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