Locals react to proposed federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour

COLUMBIA (WOLO): Congressional democrats are making a new push to raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour, up from $7.25 an hour. The proposal would gradually increase over the next four years. How might that affect us here at home in South Carolina?

“If we would have to pay the waitstaff $15 an hour and then no tipping, honestly I don’t think any restaurant group could do that.” Local restaurant, Lizards Thicket CEO, Bobby Williams, says raising the minimum wage sounds like a nice idea. “I would have to raise the prices at least 30%, so you’re talking about 3 dollars just to cover the labor. At $15.99 a meal, we’re at $10 now, I don’t know how many people would be lined up to buy it.”

Student and Shift leader at Freshe Poke in the Vista, Katie Reitz, believes the minimum wage has been staggering too low for too long. “I always thought it was absolutely absurd that the serving industry is at like a $2 or a $4 and they have to rely solely on tips because not everyone was raised to give tips.”

Of Williams’ 700 employees, not one makes minimum wage. Tips included, he says their average right now is more than 10 dollars, but the COVID pandemic has made it even more of a challenge. 

“If you look at the overall employment levels for the leisure and hospitality sector, they’re still down about 17% today compared to where they were back in February of 2020. So if we’re looking to see their recovery in 2021, it makes it far more challenging if they’re faced with a significant increase in labor costs,” said Joseph Von Nessen, Ph.D, Research Economist, Moore School of Business at University of South Carolina.

Von Nessen says it’s not a one size fits all situation. “It affects different regions and industries so differently. Some will be affected minimally, others significantly. so you really do have to examine it on a case by case basis to see what the real affects are.”

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