N.H. mulls minimum wage hike
CONCORD – In less than 10 months, New Hampshire businesses could be forced to pay a minimum wage of $10 per hour, a significant increase from the current rate of $7.25 per hour.
New Hampshire’s minimum wage is the lowest of the New England states, with the $12 per hour now paid by businesses in Massachusetts reflecting the highest such wage.
Tuesday, New Hampshire Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, introduced legislation to raise minimum wage through Senate Bill 10. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua; Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst; Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye; Sen. Martha Hennessy, D-Hanover; and Sen. Melanie Levesque, D-Brookline.
Soucy’s bill proposes the Granite State’s minimum wage jump to $10 per hour on Jan. 1.
“Seven dollars and twenty-five cents wasn’t a living wage in 2009 and it certainly isn’t a living wage in 2019,” Soucy said. “When it comes to ensuring decent wages for our workers, New Hampshire is far from first.”
The $7.25 per hour rate is the federal minimum wage. If an employee earning this wage worked 40 hours per week for 52 weeks in a year, he or she would realize an annual salary of $15,080, or $290 per week. Senators, activists and residents attending the Tuesday Senate Commerce Committee public hearing are claiming this is simply not enough.
“There’s no town in New Hampshire where somebody can live on the minimum wage and we have, I believe, thousands of people in New Hampshire who are working at minimum wage,” Rosenwald told The Telegraph. “I think we should be paying people more fairly for the work that they are doing for economy. We’ve defaulted to federal minimum wage and it’s not sustainable.”
Some of the states requiring higher minimum wages than New Hampshire’s $7.25 do not seem surprising: California ($11), Vermont ($10.78), New York ($11.10), Massachusetts ($12) and others.
However, states that mandate higher minimum wages than New Hampshire also include Arkansas ($9.25) and West Virginia ($8.75), according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Tuesday’s hearing brought in political activists from across the state. Members of Raise Up New Hampshire, an initiative of the NH Alliance for a Moral Economy which works to raise the minimum wage and fights right to work legislation, stood in the New Hampshire State House’s lobby display signs that read “NH Families need livable wages” and “Fight for $15.” They were also joined by New Hampshire Voice of Faith members who held up signs that read “Economic Justice for All” and “Poverty level wages are immoral.”
During the hearing, Rev. John Gregory-Davis of Meriden Congregational Church, touched upon the importance of a moral economy. He hopes that New Hampshire minimum wage can eventually reach $15 per hour.
“You ought to be able to live at minimum wage,” Gregory-Davis said. “Pay others as you wish to be paid.”
New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett put it simply, “You can’t pay your rent and put for on the table for $300 a week.”
A Concord High School graduate, Martin Toe, talked about his first job, at which he made $8 an hour. Toe said it wasn’t enough to cover his expenses.
“Think about the young people that are working,” Toe told the committee. “Keep that in mind.”
After the hearing, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse, R-Salem, also issued a statement.
“At a time when New Hampshire has the highest per capita income in the nation with the fastest growing economy in the Northeast, we should not be artificially raising the minimum wage,” Morse stated. “Worker’s wages have been increasing significantly in New Hampshire because we have built a booming economy where businesses are competing for good workers. Raising the minimum wage at this time is unnecessary and will put the economy we have created at risk.
If the legislation becomes law, minimum wage in New Hampshire would raise to $10/hour in 2020. It would go to $12 or $11 per hour in 2022, depending upon additional benefits provided by employers, like paid sick days.
Current minimum wage by state
New Hampshire $7.25
Rhode Island $10.50
New York $11.10
West Virginia $8.75
– U.S. Department of Labor