Meet Some ‘Smart Capitalists’ Who Have Already Raised Their Minimum Wage

Isaiah J. Poole

So what if big-box retailer Costco already pays its workers well above the minimum wage, the rhetoric from the crowd opposing a minimum wage increase goes. Costco is a special case, they say, with a business model and sales volume that can sustain a high-wage retail workforce.

What’s good for Costco won’t necessarily be good for, say, a small Tennessee business that markets store reward cards, a soul-food restaurant in Washington, D.C. or a small organic grocery chain, they argue.

But a group of business owners who were on Capitol Hill last month lobbying for a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour say they know that argument is false – because they’re already putting into practice what the law would require.

They are members of a group called Smart Capitalists for Economic Prosperity. Three of its members sat down for brief interviews in the cafeteria of the Dirksen Senate Office Building to talk about their support for the minimum wage legislation and what they are seeing in their own businesses.

Steven Prince of Card Marketing Services said he recently increased the minimum salary he pays his workers to $12 an hour, because he said “it didn’t seem right” that the company, which manufactures gift and loyalty cards for stores and restaurants, would be doing well while paying its workers “an almost unlivable wage.”

Imar Hutchins, the owner of the historic Florida Avenue Grill in Northwest Washington, increased the wages of his 15-person staff – a mix of tipped and non-tipped workers – in an effort to build a more loyal, dedicated workforce. He expects to see the payoff in lower training and turnover costs. He has joined forces with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization best known for organizing restaurant worker wage protests but which also helps interested restaurant develop “high-road” wage and personnel practices. “We feel it’s good business,” he said. H

Suzanne Nash of Mom’s Organic Market, a small Washington-area grocery chain, said its workers are already paid at or above the $10.10 minimum. The stores certainly benefit from a more satisfied worker, she said, but more importantly, “you end up with an economy that grows” when all workers have money in their pockets to spend.

The effort to increase the minimum wage is “an effort to create a working environment in America that gives every family the opportunity to meet their basic needs and strive for a middle-income lifestyle,” Nash said. When that happens, “there will be more money in the economy that will flow to businesses.”

Prince says that many of his business colleagues who are opponents of the minimum wage “aren’t bad people,” but “they’re just greedy. They’re wanting to hold on to more money than they should be wanting to hold onto.”

That greed should not be allowed to hold down the economy, and it shouldn’t nullify the efforts of business owners who are doing the right thing for their employees by paying a wage that enables a worker who is a single parent to be above the poverty line. But right now Republicans in Congress continue to stand in the way of any attempt to move a minimum wage bill to a vote. Sign our petition to tell Congress to side with the Smart Capitalists and raise the minimum wage.

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