President Obama’s efforts to encourage Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 have received a lot of press. The Small Business Majority polled  (PDF) small business owners to see how they feel about this controversial issue and found that—well, actually, they found that there’s a lot less controversy than the news media might lead you to expect.
Although Republicans in the House and Senate have signaled they are unlikely to approve an increase, The New York Times reports , Republicans in the survey were far more supportive. The majority (57 percent) of survey respondents favor increasing the minimum wage in three stages over two and a half years, then adjusting it annually to keep up with the cost of living.
In fact, 61 percent of those in the retail and restaurant industries, which are typically thought to be the most affected by minimum wage issues, supported an increase. Nor was this issue divided among party lines. Overall, 47 percent of respondents identified as Republicans, and 35 percent as Democrats.
Why do small business owners support raising the minimum wage when the media portrays businesses as universally opposed? There are several reasons.
Raising the Minimum Wage
Many Already Pay More
Many employers already pay their employees more than the minimum wage. A whopping 82 percent of small business owners in the survey pay more than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
A Benefit to Sales
Small business owners think increasing the minimum wage will benefit their sales. Fifty-two percent of entrepreneurs in the survey say raising the minimum wage will help small businesses because minimum-wage earners, who are more likely than other consumers to shop at local businesses, will have more money available to spend on products and services.
Help in Competing
Small business owners also believe that raising the minimum wage will help them compete. Thirty-five percent expect that a higher minimum wage will prevent competitors from undercutting them on labor costs.
Relief to Taxpayers
They want to relieve the burden on taxpayers. More than half (54 percent) of survey respondents think it would be helpful if minimum-wage earners had more of their own money to spend and could rely less on government assistance, thus on taxpayers, to survive.
It’s the Right Thing to Do
They believe it’s the right thing to do. Finally, the same percentage (54 percent) of respondents think it’s not right that the current minimum wage only provides a salary of $15,080 annually for a full-time worker. When adjusted for inflation, the study notes that this is significantly lower than the salary of a full-time minimum wage worker in the 1960’s.
Depending on what state you’re in, of course, whether the federal increase passes or not may not matter. The Times reports that 34 state legislatures are currently mulling increasing their state minimum wages, some of them to levels even higher than $10.10 per hour, and that eight more states may add ballot initiatives this fall that would increase the state minimum wage.
Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Minimum Wage  Photo via Shutterstock