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Minimum Wage Hike - Will Lexington Be Next?

PHOTO: Kentucky's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but a proposal to increase that to $10.10 an hour is percolating in Lexington. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: Kentucky's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but a proposal to increase that to $10.10 an hour is percolating in Lexington. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
May 11, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. – With Kentucky's minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour, the battleground to improve pay for low-income workers has shifted to the local level.

In December, the Louisville Metro Council voted to gradually move the minimum wage in Jefferson County to $9 an hour by 2017.

Now, the state's second largest city, Lexington, is considering an increase to $10.10 an hour.

Lilly May, a full-time college student who works two part-time, minimum-wage jobs in Lexington, says $7.25 tamps down access to higher education.

"And if you're constantly trying to get that through a minimum wage job where you also have to pay bills, and possibly support a child, it's just never going to happen,” she states. “So, it ends up being really cyclical."

The Kentucky Senate killed a proposed statewide minimum wage increase in both the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions. Republican leaders maintain raising the floor on pay would lead to fewer jobs.

Sarah Thomas, a server at a Lexington restaurant, says an increase is long overdue and believes it would not be a job-killer.

"All this is really doing is making sure that businesses aren't going to take advantage of their workers,” he stresses. “That they're not going to be able to pay them less than a living wage, and $10.10 isn't even a living wage in Lexington, but it's a definite increase that will help workers."

Thomas says she plans to attend a Raise the Wage Rally Friday afternoon in downtown Lexington.

The proposal to increase Fayette County's rate to $10.10 over three years is now before a committee of the Lexington Urban County Council.

May wants to debunk the image she says some people have of the minimum wage – that it's for high school students who need gas money.

She has message ready for council members.

"I would say we are all worth more, because currently my goals, right now, are to save up for graduate school because I feel it's a complete necessity and that's just not happening," she says.

According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, raising the minimum wage would impact more than 31,000 workers in Lexington, because one out of every five is making below $10.10 an hour.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY