Sen. Robert Casey, CEO Clifton Broumand and Sen. Cory Booker
Small business leaders joined Senate Democrats on the Hill Thursday to lend their support to a push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.
Flanked by business owners who said they experienced measurable benefits to paying their employees above the minimum wage, Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the impact of such a move would go far beyond the individual worker.
“We know that 70 percent of the economy is driven by consumer spending,” Casey said. “If you put more dollars in the pockets of consumers, not only do you have that overarching economic benefit to the country, but of course small businesses especially benefit.”
But the more powerful testimony came from John Cooper, Clifton Broumand and Scott Nash, who told stories of their employees who “were more like family” and stayed with their companies for decades because they could count on a “a fair wage for a fair day’s work.”
Broumand, who owns Man & Machine Inc., which makes medical-grade waterproof keyboards and mice, said that paying his employees well meant they were more innovative and loyal.
“Inevitably as a business owner, you’re not going to get as much money initially, but I’ve found that productivity by people who have less stress, who are happier in their jobs, actually increases substantially every time they’re getting more money,” he explained. “And therefore, it doesn’t take that long for me to actually become more productive and actually make more money…”
Cooper, president of Spectronics Corporation, a Westbury, N.Y. company that builds ultraviolet lamps for forensic and fingerprint analysis, said more than 70 percent of his company’s employees had been there for more than 10 years.
“A higher minimum wage will result in increased employee retention, which means lower costs for hiring and training new workers,” he said. “It will allow workers to buy essentials they cannot afford now and most of the money they spend will go right back into local businesses.”
“Raising the minimum wage might have a short impact on our profits, the bottom line, but in the long run, it benefits our workers, and it benefits me as owner of the company as well,” he said. “So it’s a win, win.”
One of the most interesting experiments by any nation as we we headed into the global crash of the Great Recession was that portion of German industry that tried an alternative to the dole. Work hours were cut; but, workers were not cut loose from their jobs into unemployment. They may not have had a boatload of work to do; but, factories were maintained; tasking skills were continued as was training; plans were studied and trialed – and when the turnaround barely began to be felt, German industrial capacity was ready to move and grow, produce and benefit the whole country’s economy.
All at a cost less than traditional measures. All without displacing workers from their place of employment often for decades. All without hiring new workers requiring one to three years of experience to get up to the productivity levels of staff let go to the dole. A stroke of success beyond the comprehension of the American government, particularly Congress. Unfortunately.
On a smaller scale, these small business owners are talking about the same concept and practices.