Minimum wage to reach $15 by ’25
Euer, Ruggiero support increase from $11.25
Jamestown Press | By ohtadmin | on May 27, 2021
Read the original article here.
The minimum wage in Rhode Island will incrementally increase to $15 an hour in 2025 under legislation signed by Gov. Dan McKee.
McKee, a Democrat, affixed his signature May 20 amid pushback from GOP lawmakers who believe higher labor costs will kill small businesses.
“This is an important step in the effort to help lift Rhode Island families out of poverty,” McKee said, “and support many of our essential workers who put themselves at risk to keep our state running during the pandemic.”
The law will increase the minimum wage to $12.25 in 2022, $13 in 2023, $14 in 2024, and $15 in 2025. The current minimum wage is $11.25.
Both legislators representing Jamestown, Rep. Deb Ruggiero, and Sen. Dawn Euer, supported the bill. The House vote was 58-15 and the Senate vote was 29-7. According to Ruggiero, a Democrat, raising the minimum wage will allow Rhode Island businesses to compete for workers with neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut, which already have laws enacted to raise the wage to $15.
“From a business perspective and opportunity cost, there’s nothing worse than investing in training an employee only to have them leave for a similar job that pays $1 or $2 more an hour,” she said. “Businesses need workers to make a profit. The issue isn’t minimum wage, it is finding and retaining good help.”
The National Federation of Independent Business, however, disagrees.
“Once again, state lawmakers just made it more expensive to operate a business in Rhode Island,” said Christopher Carlozzi, Rhode Island director for the federation, which is the largest small-business association in the nation. “Small businesses that experienced a significant drop in revenue over the last year due to state-mandated shutdowns and restrictions will now face higher labor costs. When operating costs rise, small businesses will need to find ways to offset those expenses, which usually means fewer hours for workers, increased prices for consumers, and fewer job opportunities for younger and inexperienced workers. Small businesses that were impacted most by the pandemic must now overcome yet another hurdle to prevent permanent closure. A $15 minimum wage will only serve to hinder job creation and Rhode Island’s overall economic recovery.”
The Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce also lobbied against the law. Erin Donovan Boyle, executive director, estimated that 28,000 workers in Rhode Island will lose their jobs as a result of 1,700 businesses closing due to the pandemic.
“Increasing minimum wage undoubtedly will increase the cost of doing business,” she said, “which will further compound the problem. We will see a further increase in unemployment and a decrease in labor force participation.”
The Jamestown Chamber of Commerce plans to discuss the law at its next meeting. According to its executive director, Michaela Cohoon, she plans to discuss the change with the chamber’s members “so we can help Jamestown businesses continue to succeed over the next few years while the rate increases.”