Delaware minimum wage increases
Delaware’s minimum wage increased from $8.75 per hour to $9.25 per hour last week. A bill proposing an increase to $11 per hour in early 2020, with an increase of $1 every year thereafter until it reaches $15 in 2024, was proposed this summer in the last general assembly. It will be voted on in the next legislative session in January.
Delaware is now the eighth state in the U.S. to have a plan in action making minimum wage $15 per hour.
Brewed Awakenings is a nonprofit coffee shop on Main Street that is already making changes to adjust. Chris Champion, general manager at Brewed Awakenings, is a salaried employee who often works the morning shift by himself. He said the shop is cutting back on giving shifts to hourly employees in order to minimize payroll expenses. Having only one person working at a busy time of day, however, poses issues.
“Especially with coffee, especially at busy times, there’s people who want to get in and out on their way to class or to work or wherever they’re going so we run the risk of losing customers who come in and see a line or have an experience where they wait longer than they wanted to wait or have built into their schedule,” Champion said.
Over the summer, Champion said that the shop began raising some of their prices. An extra shot of espresso in your coffee used to be only 25 cents. Now it’s $1. The store hours have been cut back as well, now closing at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
“It’s going to be really hard for us to maintain a staff at $15 an hour,” Champion said. “So either prices are going to have to go up a lot or we’re going to have to condense our hours so that we only have employees here when it’s most profitable.”
Although the bill will be putting more money in employee’s pockets, small local businesses are expected to suffer. State Senator Darius Brown (D-Wilmington), a sponsor of the bill, said that conversations with those “Mom and Pop” shops are “ongoing.”
Brown said that the goal of the bill is to help families living off of a minimum wage job. Studies show that an hourly rate of almost $22 is needed to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Delaware. At the current rate, minimum wage workers would need to put in an almost 100-hour work week to afford an average rent payment of almost $1,150 per month.
“It’s a value about how we can lift people out of poverty, connect people to employment opportunities, and as they’re continuing to re-tool, to educate themselves and to create career lattices for themselves,” Brown said. “We’re establishing a foundation that allows them to do that, without some of the strains and stresses that they currently experience.”
Brown also said that he believes employment and education go hand-in-hand.
“It’s not a matter of the chicken or the egg, which one comes first,” Brown said. “As we’re investing in the human capital of our state and the future of our young people, we must also make those investments in the parents of those people so that they are able to provide for themselves and their family.”
A 2016 poll from the Center for Political Communication at the university showed that 59% of surveyed students on campus favored a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Emerson Page, a junior art history major, said she will hate seeing prices continue to rise and will be very upset if some businesses have to close.
“I think it’s really important to have those local restaurants and businesses because if everything is just a chain or big corporation, there’s no unique character to an area,” Page said. “I think losing that would be pretty detrimental to local culture and things like that.”
Although Page may not like seeing some of the consequences, she will be someone receiving the benefits.
Page made the previous minimum wage working at the Morris Library this summer. She said she was constantly worrying about her next paycheck, wondering how much it would be and trying to finance her money ahead of time. Page began working at Starbucks in the fall, making $9.20 per hour. She said even that small increase in pay made a difference for her.
“It feels like you’re getting more out of it,” Page said. “It’s difficult to make sure that you can finance everything. I spent the whole summer trying to save up for studying abroad. And it was hard because you’re not getting much at just $8.75 an hour.”