The House Labor Committee heard and rejected several bills Thursday, aimed at setting a state minimum wage higher than the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
Business groups, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, opposed the bills. Stan Harris with the Louisiana Restaurant Association said there will be job losses if the minimum wage is raised. He quoted LSU economist Dr. Loren Scott by way of explanation.
“When wages rise, then prices of apples and pizzas will rise. And when these prices rise, people will buy less apples and pizza,” Harris said. “The end result is you need less people to stock the apples, and to make the pizza. It’s basic economics.”
The higher wage proposals had varying start dates and starting amounts—from $8.25 an hour to $10.10 per hour. Each had provisions for continuing raises, tied to Consumer Price Index reports on inflation.
Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project spoke in support of the bills, providing lawmakers with some state statistics.
“We have the third highest poverty rate in the country here, and we also have the fourth highest percentage of workers who make at or below minimum wage,” Moller told the committee. He also noted that 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws setting their own wage minimums, over and above the federal mandate.
Minimum wage workers added their voices in support, saying, “It’s not right that they pay us this little amount of money.”
“It just isn’t enough for the basic necessities.”
“We need help. That’s it. We need help.”
“Y’all talking about a minimum wage. Why not be a living wage?”
In the end, business interests trumped concerns about poverty, with the bills failing to get out of committee. Senate versions still await committee hearings, but are expected to meet a similar fate.