The opponents of an increase in the minimum wage say they speak for small business. Here's more proof that they don't.
It comes from the organization Small Business Majority, in the form of a poll of 500 randomly selected small-business owners. Among those polled, 57 percent said they would favor an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
They were specifically asked about a bill that is currently being blocked by Republican leadership in the House, which would spread the increase to $10.10 an hour over three years, and then adjust future increases to inflation. House Democrats are currently trying to get 218 member signatures on a discharge petition to move the legislation past the leadership obstruction to a vote in the House. (Use this click-to-call tool to ask your member of Congress to sign the discharge petition.)
"When you look at the respondents in the retail and restaurant industries, the support for raising to $10.10 was actually higher," to 61 percent, said John Arsenmeyer, the executive director of Small Business Majority. Average support was somewhat higher among businesses that gross less than $200,000 a year, according to the survey.
These businesses think an increase in the minimum wage is good for their bottom line. A majority of those polled agreed that increasing the minimum wage, by putting more money into the consumer economy, would drive up demand and increase spending by lower-income consumers.
They also agree that a minimum wage increase would be good from the perspective of taxpayers; a majority agreed that that a minimum-wage increase would lessen the demand for government economic support programs. "They don't think that it's right that people working full time earn just $15,080 at the minimum wage, which by the way is significantly lower than it was in the 1960s when adjusted for inflation," Arsenmeyer said.
Zach Davis, who owns a small chain of restaurants in southern California, said that he already pays his workers more than the state's minimum wage of $8 an hour after a short training period. He said an increase in the minimum wage would level the playing field for all small businesses and help him compete for talent with the larger chains.
"I'm a firm believer that the current federal minimum wage just isn't practical. I welcome a nationwide increase that would pay all workers enough to survive" and would help businesses "whose success is directly tied to the financial security of their employees and customers."
Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books in St. Louis, also said the minimum wage increase would allow her business to compete for a talented workforce. She added, "When the economy thrives and consumers have more discretionary income, my business thrives as well."
The right-wing National Federation of Independent Business, which claims to be the voice of small business, has launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to oppose an increase in the minimum wage. A good chunk of its funding comes from one of the biggest of big-business owners, the Koch brothers, who through their front group Freedom Partners gave the NFIB and affiliated organizations $2.5 million.
When you hear particularly Republican members of Congress say that an increase in the minimum wage hurts small business, they are more than likely getting talking points from the NFIB that have been paid for by big corporate conservative donors.
Fortunately, real small businesses know that they can't grow if the incomes in their customers' pockets are shrinking, and an increasing number are willing to say so. Congress should listen to them, not the lobby that serves as a puppeteer for the likes of the Koch brothers, and vote to increase the minimum wage.