WA minimum wage increase causes concern for business owners

<p>Country Gentleman</p>

Country Gentleman

On January 1st, Washington's minimum wage goes up to $9.19 per hour, which is nearly $2 higher than the national minimum wage.

While it's great for employees, the increase is causing some concerns for business owners.

Many business owners say the increase in minimum wage may hurt their bottom line.

Restaurant managers for example, say their profit margins are very thin so every dollar they have is extremely valuable.

They say with this upcoming wage increase, customers may be the ones who foot the bill.

Steve Simmons manages about 75 people at the Country Gentleman restaurant in Kennewick, and about one-third of those employees are paid minimum wage.

So when Simmons found out minimum wage rates are going up 15 cents, he knew it would impact his business.

"When you multiply it out. 15 cents an hour times 1,000 hours is $150. So it's not an insignificant amount of money" said Simmons.

Starting January 1st, minimum wage in Washington goes up from $9.04 an hour to $9.19, giving the state the highest minimum wage rate in the country.

Simmons says he's already cut back employee hours due to previous minimum wage increases - and says now, customers may have to pick up the tab.

"At the end of the day, I'm sure that most restaurants will have to adjust their prices to absorb the minimum wage" said Simmons.

Minimum wage workers on the other hand, are welcoming the pay raise.

"I'm glad. I just don't think it's going up enough" said Cyndi Allessio, who makes minimum wage.

"I'm excited about it. I love my job either way, I mean it doesn't exactly make a huge difference, but it helps a lot more" said Rochelle Karger, who makes minimum wage.

Simmons says thankfully, business this past year has been solid, and he hopes that continues in 2013, so the impact of the minimum wage increase is minimal.

"We're happy as we can be here. We just hate it when the government does stuff to us" said Simmons.

Simmons tells us another issue with the rising minimum wage rates is it takes away from other employees.

He says after this upcoming increase, there will be less money to give to other employees who may deserve raises.

Minimum wage in Oregon is also going up 15 cents on January 1st to $8.95 an hour.