Forty-two cents per hour – that’s how much Vermont’s minimum wage increased as of January first. The minimum wage is now $9.15 per hour, up from $8.73. And tipped workers now will be paid $4.58, a thirty-five-cent-per-hour increase.
Vermont legislators worked very hard to start this minimum change that will inch the hourly minimum to $10.50 by 2018. Nationally since the recession 58% of new jobs have been in low wage occupations where minimum wage sets the pay scale. Who are these workers? The median age of a low-wage worker has risen to 34.9. And 88% are adults over the age of twenty, 56% are women, nearly half are workers of color, and over 43% have some college education.
Estimates suggest that the changes will affect about 30,000 people in Vermont. For now every little bit helps – but this is only $3.36 more per eight-hour shift, and less than $20.00 for a 40-hour week.
So who out of Vermont’s thirty thousand struggling minimum wage earners did WCAX news find to interview? Well no one. But they did seek out someone who complained about it. Karen Zecchinelli, owner of the Wayside Restaurant in Berlin, said
“I don't like the state coming in and telling me what I should be doing in my business. It's not good for business,”
She didn’t specify how much, but says she pays her employees a “fair and livable” wage.WCAX news didn’t speak to any Wayside employees. Zecchinelli is a big financial supporter of Lt. Governor Phil Scott and has held fundraisers for him in the past.
Scott has often expressed doubts about Vermont’s minimum-wage impact on business, and complaints of that sort will likely feature prominently at an upcoming event. In an un-characteristic burst of post-election energy the Lt. Governor is holding an economic “pitch session” at the Capitol Plaza.
“Priority # 1 on Day One (a name right out of the Douglas administration if ever there was one) is described as a cross between a “shark tank show “ and speed dating. It will feature only business people – but business people of all stripes, he says. He hopes the gathering will “set the right tone” to kick off the legislative session. A monotone?
Since Phil Scott’s group pitch is coming exclusively from business you can expect the ideas will run the gamut – one that goes all the way from A to B.
What is the sound of one group pitching?
At Phil Scott’s Priority #1 Day One, the following “diverse” groups will attend to help “set the tone” for the legislative session:
Vermont Chamber of Commerce
Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce
Vermont Technology Alliance
Vermont Retail and Grocers’ Association
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Associated Industries of Vermont
Vermont Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
Associated General Contractors
Vermont Ski Areas Association
Vermont Association of Realtors
The two groups highlighted already gave heavily to Phil Scott’s most recent campaign.
How many will make donations to Scott’s next campaign fund after the pitching at his “shark-tank”session remains to be seen.