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Congress considers minimum wage increase

By Leah Linscheid, llinscheid@wkbt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:48:40 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 11 2013 11:03:56 PM CST
US Capitol
LA CROSSE, WI (WKBT) -

Federal lawmakers are looking at a bill to raise the country's minimum wage.

The national minimum wage is currently $7.25, but it varies from state to state, with some as high as $9. Two democratic senators are proposing this bill that would raise it to about $10 in three steps over the next two years. While that means more money for people in these minimum wage jobs, it could mean price increases for the products they're making.

“That would be an effect on the bottom line for those businesses,” said Viterbo business professor John Robertson. “They probably will be able to raise prices and pass on some [of that cost].”

Robertson added the increase could potentially have an impact on jobs, as well. He said if businesses are required to pay their employees more, they may choose to cut back on hiring.

Bryan Boland is one worker who would be impacted positively by an increase. He works at the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop on Pearl Street in La Crosse, and gets paid minimum wage. His income is enough to pay his bills, but just barely.

"I have a hard time making rent every month, despite the fact that I work 38 hours a week,” Boland said. “Between that and groceries, it's just kind of rough."

His manager, Jameson O’Shasky, acknowledged the pay increase would help out Boland and his fellow coworker, but it could have an impact on the prices at his sandwich shop.  

"It would make a big difference for my employees, I'm sure they would love it,” he said. "I can't guarantee that we would necessarily have an increase with our food prices, but it's a pretty safe assumption."

For Boland, the few extra dollars would help with the little things.

"I wouldn't be worried all the time about eating. That would be helpful."

Congress might not be as fast as Jimmy Johns when it comes to passing legislation. So for now, Boland will keep working for $7.25 an hour as a sandwich maker who’s surrounded by food, but sometimes struggles to put bread on his own table.

"You don't want to eat a sub every day,” he said.

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