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Archive for Saturday, August 3, 1996

MINIMUM WAGE BUMP PUTS JOLT IN WORK FORCE

August 3, 1996

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Lawrence employees will gladly welcome a raise in the minimum wage.

While the minimum wage will increase from the current $4.25 to $5.15 over the next 13 months, debate still continues on how it may affect employers and employees.

"Well, I think because most employers are already paying above minimum wage it won't be as bad," said Gary Toebben, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

"It's (a minimum wage increase) likely to affect people who have hired a lot of part-time people. I think without a doubt that will raise their costs. But if it's over time, it shouldn't pose too much of a problem."

For the year 1995, Toebben said the Chamber estimated a 1,700 increase in Lawrence jobs. Toebben said an increase in Lawrence jobs for 1996 is expected to be between 1,000 and 1,200.

While Toebben said there is job availability in Lawrence, an increase in the minimum wage will definitely make employers think twice before hiring.

"I think employers will think twice about adding more employees. They'll make sure they need them the most before they hire them," Toebben said. "The projections have been that young people will find it more difficult to find employment."

Erin Campbell, a cashier at Texaco Self Service, 1415 W. Sixth, said she just can't see how anyone today could live on the current minimum wage.

"That's miserable," Campbell said. "For people to have to make minimum wage and support themselves or a family, too, is unreal. I don't think that's right."

Joy Weroha, an employee at the Varsity Theater, 1015 Mass., said an increase in the minimum wage will mean a lot to her.

"From the view of a poor, starving college student, I think it's a great idea," Weroha said.

Weroha said she is searching for a second job for added income. But she isn't concerned that employers won't hire part-timers as a result of the minimum wage hike.

"Making minimum wage, it just makes me seek out a second job," Weroha said. "But if they really need the people, they will hire them."

Some employers may think twice about hiring under the new minimum wage, but others say they will hire the people they have to to get the work done.

"In our store, it (the minimum wage increase) won't affect us," said Heather Regan, assistant store manager for Kmart Discount Stores, 3106 Iowa.

"We're looking at hiring new people right now."

At the current minimum wage, a full-time employee -- working 40 hours a week -- would earn $8,840 a year before taxes.

Earning the new minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, a full-time employee will make $10,712 a year before taxes.

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