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Lowest Paid Workers Get a Raise This Week

July 20, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - On Friday, the federal minimum wage increases by 70 cents, to $7.25 an hour. Rick Wilson, with the West Virginia Economic Justice Project of the American Friends Service Committee, says that rise is going to be especially vital in West Virginia, because more than one worker of every eight in the state depends on low-paying jobs.

"West Virginia has a really high percentage of workers who'll be affected by this. One figure I saw was close to 13 percent of the state's work force."

Some business groups warn that the increase will cost jobs. Wilson says however that recent bumps to the minimum wage have been good for the economy.

Instead of costing jobs, Wilson argues, the wage hikes benefit businesses because low-income workers spend everything they get almost immediately.

"I don't think you see a lot of cobwebs accumulating on any increased wages that low-income people get. It's not going to sit around in a bank account very long, and it's not going to be invested overseas."

For a full-time worker, the new wage floor equates to $15,000 a year before taxes. In the last decade, fourteen states and Washington, D.C. have set wages at the level now matched nationwide. West Virginia set its own minimum in 2006, but only for a very limited number of workers.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV