Business Group Vocally Opposes Raising The Minimum Wage — But Its Members Don’t See It As A Problem

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The National Federation of Independent Business will soon release a study saying that all three minimum wage increase bills under consideration in Pennsylvania would cost jobs, anywhere from 28,000 to 119,000. That’s just the latest in its vocal and consistent opposition to raising the minimum wage. It has pushed out studies showing negative job impacts and statements against efforts to raise the minimum wage in a wide variety of states.

But its own members aren’t so focused on the issue: Buried inside a big roundup report on the issue is a survey of business owners — and they say they aren’t actually worried about sick days or minimum wage. In its most recent survey of the small businesses that make up its membership, from 2012, they ranked “Minimum Wage/’Living’ Wage” at number 52 out of 75 issues — well in the last third. On top of this, just 8.6 percent said this issue is “critical,” while 28.8 percent said it wasn’t even a problem.

The group has also opposed paid sick days, but that ranks even lower among its members. “Mandatory Family or Sick Leave” is number 64, below regular crime as well as cyber crime, with 7.8 percent deeming it critical and 35.1 percent saying it’s not a problem. Yet it conducted a study saying that enacting paid sick days in Massachusetts would cost 16,000 jobs and testified against a measure in Illinois.

The NFIB didn’t return a request for comment by the time of publication.

While opponents of raising the minimum wage say that it will cost jobs, there are a variety of ways that it can actually benefit businesses. The Congressional Budget Office found a $10.10 minimum wage would increase earnings by $31 billion, and that means people will have more money to consumer business’s products and services. Higher wages can also reduce turnover — something that is very costly, as replacing a worker can cost as much as 20 percent of his salary — and improve efficiency.

Some business owners have decided these benefits outweigh the costs and are raising their wages on their own. The Gap will raise its lowest wage to $10 an hour, which it says will “directly support our business” and “deliver a return many times over.” The burger chain Shake Shack pays entry-level workers an average of $10.70 an hour while offering benefits like health care, retirement, and paid time off, which it says has reduced turnover, attracted better workers, and brought returns to the company’s profits. The burrito chain Boloco pays starting workers between $9 and $11, which it says increases loyalty and productivity.

Paid sick days, meanwhile, can also come with benefits like better productivity and lower flu transmissions. And in places like Connecticut, San Francisco, and Seattle that have had laws mandating paid sick leave for a while, studies have shown that costs have been low, job growth has remained strong, and businesses support the laws. Three-quarters of Connecticut’s businesses support its paid sick days law a year and a half later.