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Delaware could be next $15 minimum wage battleground


Delaware could be next $15 minimum wage battleground

With so many states on the East Coast now at least considering a minimum wage hike, if not having already passed one, it shouldn't be a surprise when others follow suit. Now, it seems as though Delaware could be the next one to take such a step, potentially leapfrogging nearby Pennsylvania, which recently made headlines as long-time opponents have seemingly softened their stance.

In the Blue Hen State, lawmakers have already introduced a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next few years, less than a year after introducing a last-minute increase during the 2018 legislative session, according to The Associated Press. They later reined in the initial increases and allowed a training wage for new employees to be written into law as well.

Currently, Delaware has a minimum wage of just $8.75 per hour - not appreciably more than the federal minimum of $7.25 - but that number will climb to $9.25 beginning in October, the report said. However, the new bill would raise that wage again at the start of 2020, to $11 per hour, then grow by $1 per year until 2024. After that, the wage would be tied to the cost of living and adjusted annually.

Getting it right
While lawmakers pushing for a higher minimum initially allowed the creation of a training wage, they also moved to repeal it in January, though that bill is still pending, according to Delaware State News. However, if that bill, as well as the one that would raise the minimum wage, are not passed by the end of June, they will not be considered again before the new legislative session in January.

It's worth noting that many of Delaware's closest neighbors - Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., among them - are now officially on the path toward a $15 minimum wage, and lawmakers worry that Delaware could be left behind if they don't enact a change sooner than later, the report said.

"Our job in the General Assembly is to enact laws that improve the lives of our constituents," state Sen. Darius Brown, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement to the organization. "The best way we can do that is by making sure our economy is providing good jobs that pay a fair and livable wage. No one who works full time should struggle to buy groceries, pay their bills and put a roof over their head."

Broad support?
There's plenty of evidence to suggest that the majority of voters - both within Delaware and outside it - support an increase in the minimum wage, with many often preferring big jumps to a more incremental approach, according to Delaware Business Now. Of course, business interests are often lined up against such changes for obvious reasons, arguing that if they have to pay workers more, they will also have to raise prices or cut hours.

When companies are concerned about increased pay for workers coming through legislative channels, the best way to deal with it is by getting ahead of the curve and offering their employees higher pay, as well as better benefits. Doing so helps attract and retain talent at a time when competition is strong.