Lawmaker discuss federal minimum wage increase as hospitality workers detail a potential impact

Coronavirus

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A push to increase the federal minimum wage was the topic of discussion Thursday in a Senate Budget Committee Hearing, and among those in the talks was Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham argued that while a minimum wage increase could be of use for the nation, but now was not the time to put the burden on small business owners.

While middle-sized businesses in Charleston said a $15 federal minimum wage is not a shock to their system, South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham said for others, it will be. Sen. Graham said, “we’re going to crush these people. “

While the Senator said he’s open to the idea of increased federal wage, he asked the committee to consider waiting until after the pandemic is over. 

I would just urge you that during the covid crisis, the last thing the federal government should be doing is doubling the cost of doing business. 

Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator for SC 

The Charleston Hospitality Group, with a little over 380 employees in the Lowcountry, said for their business, which is labeled as middle-sized, they’ve been starting certain wages higher than the federal minimum level already. 

Jeff Diehl, the Director of Operations for the Charleston Hospitality Group, said that they’ve hired employees at a $13-$15 rate. Diehl added that he is truthfully unsure as to how others are retaining and attracting talent without paying more than the federal minimum wage.

As for those who Diehl said will be most affected, he detailed the individuals in the restaurant industry who are hourly employees—who may want to switch to a position where tips are present to make more of a profit in the end.

Therein lies the problem. There will never be a shortage of people entering into the workforce or people that need jobs and that’s up to training. The affordability then comes in on the restaurant—whether or not they are able to pay that employee an hourly or transfer them into a tipped position. Ultimately that money again has to come from somewhere.

Jeff Diehl, Director of Operations for CHG 

However, for even smaller businesses that may not have been paying similar wages as Diehl for hourly employees, coordination will be needed. This could include owners stepping in more to work in person-hours, speaking with landlords to assist on rent, reallocating advertising money, or having individuals who are long-time employees work fewer hours for a time being.

Diehl said it can be a “slippery slope to get on, because if you can’t produce the food or the drinks to sell—then you don’t have revenue, no revenue, no money to pay any bills.” He went on to note that it will require both partnership and communication for those small businesses in order to preserve their business.

The proposed federal minimum wage increase will be incremental over a period of roughly 5 years. This would be about $1 to $1.50 a year until $15 is reached.

You can count on us to update you if and when the measure passes both on-air and online.

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