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Coalition urges legislators to raise minimum wage

Lawrence Pierce
Jamie Gudiel, a minimum wage worker from Morgantown, speaks on Wednesday to Raise the Wage West Virginia, a group working to increase the state's minimum wage.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state coalition is urging the West Virginia Senate to pass a bill that would increase the state's minimum wage.

Raise the Wage West Virginia met Wednesday to encourage senators to pass the legislation, which would raise the state's minimum hourly wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 by 2015.  The House of Delegates already approved the bill with an 89-5 vote.

Both House Democrats and Republicans voted for the legislation. Proposed federal legislation would increase the minimum wage nationally to $10.10 an hour.

Jamie Gudiel, a worker from Morgantown, came to Charleston on Wednesday to see the Senate discuss the pending state legislation. 

"A vote to raise the minimum wage holds the key to my family getting one step closer to our American dream," Gudiel said. "It wouldn't solve all our problems, but it gives us a chance at a more normal life."

Gudiel and her husband currently hold three minimum wage jobs in Morgantown. She holds two retail jobs, while her husband works as a landscaper.

"I get up at 6:30 every morning, drop my husband off to work, then drop our kids off at school and go to work myself.

"It is between 10 and 11 at night before I finally get home," she said.

I work on weekends too. I can give my kids a better quality of life.

"If the minimum wage was raised to $8.75 an hour, maybe I could quit one of my jobs. Working two jobs makes my quality of life non-existent," Gudiel said.

Gudiel said it is hard for her to find time to play with her children, cook for them and help them learn to read. Her children are 3, 5 and 8-years old.

"Raising the minimum wage after so many years is just an act of fairness, and act of justice," the Rev. Jeff Allen, director of the West Virginia Council of Churches, said. "Increasing the minimum wage will provide a boost to the economy of the state.

"And they are real dollars that will stay in the state," Allen said, adding that if the minimum wage paid in 1975 was simply adjusted for inflation, that wage would be $10.73 an hour today.

Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said raising the minimum wage would strengthen the economy.

"One half of all the income gains over the past 30 years have gone to the top one percent," Boettner said. "Fewer people are purchasing things. To have a strong economy, you have to have strong wages. Give people an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

"If West Virginia raised its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, it would reduce SNAP enrollment by 25,000 and SNAP expenditures by $45 million in West Virginia," Boettner said.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture helps millions of low-income individuals and families. It is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.

Boettner cited a report released on Wednesday by the Center for American Progress entitled, "The Effects of Minimum Wages on SNAP Enrollment and Expenditures." (The report can be read at: http://www.americanprogress.org.)

"A minimum wage increase that lifts many families out of poverty," the report states, would "reduce public expenditures on this [SNAP] program."

The report also stated, "Raising the [national] minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would lower government spending on federal nutrition assistance by $46 billion over the next 10 years."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

     


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