Archive for Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Federal minimum wage jumps by 70 cents an hour

July 25, 2007

Businesses that ring up less than $500,000 a year in sales and prevent their products or services from stretching across state lines can continue to keep their payrolls unchanged.

A rise in the federal minimum wage doesn't directly affect them.

But for everyone else -- the bulk of businesses in the state, save a relative handful of small, mom-and-pop restaurants and otherwise limited, independent shops -- Tuesday marked the implementation of a new minimum wage of $5.85 an hour.

The 70-cent boost, the first in a decade, applies to all workers in businesses that fall under the auspices of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Linda Wichman, a labor conciliator for the Kansas Department of Labor, said businesses that don't need to pay the new federal minimum wage -- such as the aforementioned mom-and-pops -- still needed to pay at least $2.65 an hour, the longtime state minimum wage that continues to rank as the lowest in the country.

Wichman and others who track wage information were hard-pressed to come up with a total number of employees in Kansas who might earn wages at or below the federal minimum wage, new or old. But the 2000 Census showed that 3.5 percent of full-time workers in Lawrence were earning pay at less than the $5.15 minimum wage.

The presumption: Even fewer full-timers are toiling for the state minimum.

"I don't know too many people who would work for $2.65," Wichman said.

Kansas lawmakers considered, but failed to approve, a bill earlier this year that would have increased the state minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage, enacted in 1938, had its last increase in September 1997, when President Clinton signed a bill boosting the wage by 40 cents an hour to $5.15.

The latest legislation, approved by President Bush in May, bumps up the wage by 70 cents an hour each summer until 2009, when the federal rate would settle at $7.25 an hour.

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