Local businesses brace for minimum wage hike

Local businesses brace for minimum wage hike

A new year means more pay for thousands of workers in Washington state.

Beginning Jan. 1, the state’s minimum wage will increase 50 cents to $12/hour. Good news for employees, but more expenses for local businesses which now have several options to consider: raise prices, cut staff, or dip into profits to cover the extra costs.

Pizza Rita has been slicing and serving pies for 30 years in Spokane. Owner Brian Dickmann says he has always focused on quality pizza at a competitive price.

“We do our best, I mean we want to keep our prices to be the best because we welcome any pizza coupon from any pizza place…” Dickmann said.

Pizza Rita raised the price of toppings in 2017 when the state minimum wage increased $1.53.

Dickmann has close to 60 employees, nearly half of them earn minimum wage. He estimates the wage hike will cost his business an extra $35,000, but he won’t ask customers to foot the bill.

“We’re not going to raise any this year, none at all,” he said. “It’s real competitive and we still just want to make sure we’re giving the best deal.”

In Washington, full-time minimum wage employees working 40 hours per week will earn $80 more per month, or about $960 more per year before taxes.

Jenna Hamilton, a student at Eastern Washington University, earns minimum wage at the school’s day care center. Hamilton said she appreciates the 50 cent raise.

“It’s really hard to live off minimum wage with bills and tuition and books and everything,” Hamilton said. “Being a student, it’s really hard to work in general so any little bit of money always helps.”

Hamilton works part-time and will likely see her paycheck go up $50-$60 – enough to cover one of her monthly bills, she said.

Just a few miles from Spokane in Idaho, workers earning minimum wage will still be getting $7.25 per hour in 2019 – almost $5 less an hour than workers in Washington.

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