Washington debates minimum wage
Despite the slow traffic in town this time of year, Mike Lindbloom is still flipping burgers for customers in the Main Street Deli, the popular lunch stop at 525 Main Street he has owned and operated for 28 years.
When asked for his opinion concerning the minimum wage debates taking place in Washington, D.C., when President Obama proposed an increase to $9 from the current $7.25 an hour, amid the grill smoke Lindbloom, didn’t have much to say. Considering it’s spring the Parkite would rather talk fly fishing than items the president proposed during his last State of the Union Address in February.
"I like to fly fish. I don’t pay attention to the (trout) limit, because I don’t keep the fish," Lindbloom said "Minimum wage is the same thing. It’s something I’m not concerned with, because that’s just it, it doesn’t concern me. I don’t know anybody that has paid (employees) $7.25 an hour in 20 years."
In March, Democrats in Congress introduced it to raise the federal minimum, which hasn’t been increased since 2009, to $10.10 an hour their proposal was defeated in a House vote. Republicans unanimously voted against the bill, arguing the increase supported by the Obama administration would only hurt small businesses in the country.
In the same month as the House vote, a nationwide poll of 500 small business owners was conducted by the Small Business Majority, a group that advocates on behalf of small businesses showed two-thirds of the group supported an increase from the current minimum. Like many local business owners, eighty-five percent also said they already pay their employees more than the minimum.
Nearly two-thirds of the owners involved in the survey also said a higher minimum wage would benefit small businesses by increasing consumer spending and, in turn, allow smaller companies to retain or hire more employees. Forty-six percent of the small business owners identified themselves as Republican, while 35 percent said they were Democrat and 11 percent said they were independent.
On a sunny spring day, seemingly more appropriate for tossing a line into the Provo River, small business owners approached on Main Street Thursday, shared Lindbloom’s nonchalance toward minimum-wage rates, but also didn’t see why they shouldn’t go up.
"We haven’t paid minimum wage since, well, forever," said Jane Schaffner, co-owner of La Niche, a home accessory store with a European feel. "I don’t see why they shouldn’t raise it, but I don’t think any of our employees will be affected. If the economy does get a jump, hopefully visitors from around the country that feel the effect will spend their money here in Park City."
Bill Malone, Park City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, says the concept of setting federal minimum wage is antiquated.
"I don’t think anybody is paying minimum wage in Park City," Malone said. "I think minimum wage is a throwback idea from the 1940s and 1950s. It doesn’t accomplish what it once did and it has become an irrelevant concept here in Park City."
He added that this agenda only affects people working several jobs, high school or college students, only a small percentage of whom are Park City residents.
"Think of it this way: Somebody in the area who normally has five jobs available during the summer, and minimum wage goes up, that same person is only offering three or four jobs," Malone said. "You need to look at both sides of the argument."
Local Park City Mountain Resort employee, Zach Ellis, didn’t share the same understandings as Malone Thursday afternoon while resting his bike on Main Street. The 21 year-old who stuck around town after graduating from Park City High School for the lifestyle, said the wage is too low, and something should be done about it.
According to Ellis, finding jobs in the area isn’t difficult, unless you’re lazy, and he feels minimum wage should be increased to help people like himself, trying to make ends meet.
"It’s getting really expensive to rent in town, and paying to commute doesn’t help," Ellis said. "I don’t make minimum wage myself, but I know a lot of people that do in Park City. It’s not easy for them."
Most of the businesses that participated in the national survey had gross annual revenues under $500,000 and half had personal family incomes under $100,000 a year. The poll was conducted March 4 10 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a research consulting firm.
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.