Showing posts with label $7.25. Show all posts
Showing posts with label $7.25. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Restaurant workers and the minimum wage: Georgia needs a true fact-finding panel

There continues to be heated discussions over the federal and state minimum wage in Georgia even though the Georgia General Assembly will not convene until January.



The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report shows that in 2014 approximately 119,000 Georgians were paid at or below the federal minimum wage with 57,000 at the minimum wage of $7.25 and another 62,000 paid below it. Together, this represents about 5.5% of the state’s hourly workers.

On WABE’s Closer Look radio program, Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, and Shannayl Connolly with the TM Restaurant Group, outlined their opposition to increases in both the federal and state minimum wage, which currently stand at $7.25 and $5.15 respectively.

The two spokeswomen insisted that the minimum wage should be seen as only an entry level wage. Furthermore, Ms. Bremer asserted that in the Atlanta market, entry level food service workers began at closer to $9.00 per hour implying that the average wage would be much higher for more experienced workers.

Looking at specific occupations, in May 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that for food preparation and serving occupations in the Atlanta metro area, the average wage was $9.77 per hour.

Of the 16 occupations showing average wages, first line supervisors had the highest average at $14.27, while dishwashers and host and hostesses shared the lowest average rate at $8.62.

Looking at average wages for the occupations, 5 had average rates below $9 per hour, 4 were between $9 and $10, and 7 paid an average of $10 or better.

It is difficult to imagine how entry level wages could begin at $9 in the Atlanta area for five occupations where the average wage is below $9 and four more averaged less than $10.

Table.1. Average hourly wages for selected occupations in food preparation and serving, May 2014
Occupation
Statewide Georgia
Metro Atlanta
Restaurant cooks
$ 10.82
$ 11.41
Short order cooks
9.66
10.22
Fast food cooks
8.72
8.80
Food preparation workers
9.74
9.97
Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
8.52
8.63
Dishwashers
8.59
8.62
Host and hostesses
8.56
8.62
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014

Regarding Ms. Bremer’s assertion that minimum wage jobs were entry level positions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nationally about half of workers earning at or below the minimum wage were age 25 or older, contradicting the perception that the minimum wage mostly affects teenagers and those just starting out in the labor market. No similar age data are available specifically for Georgia.

Advocates in Georgia continue to push to raise both the state’s and the nation’s minimum wage

The Atlanta Progressive News reports that an “Atlanta People’s Wage Board” met in October to take testimony on raising the minimum wage. While styled after the New York board formed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Atlanta board was strictly an unofficial body wanting to focus attention on increasing the minimum wage rather than a fact-finding panel.

State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) discussed Georgia House Bill 8 that would increase the minimum wage to $15, and eliminate exemptions that allow some workers to be paid below the current minimum wage, such as tipped employees. The Senator indicated that he plans to introduce a companion bill in the Georgia Senate in the next session of the legislature.

HB 8 was introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives by State Rep. Dewey McClain (D-Lawrenceville), who is President of the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, but the bill has not yet received a hearing.


This discussion is sure to continue into the 2016 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly, but the discussion will not be helped if assertions cannot be backed with statistically useful information. 

A true fact-finding panel might shed light on the matter.