Panel hears minimum wage bill
BISMARCK - North Dakota could better attract and retain workers if it increased its minimum wage, a Fargo legislator said Tuesday. In the first of four minimum wage bills the Legislature will consider, Rep. Steve Zaiser, D-Fargo, presented House ...
BISMARCK - North Dakota could better attract and retain workers if it increased its minimum wage, a Fargo legislator said Tuesday.
In the first of four minimum wage bills the Legislature will consider, Rep. Steve Zaiser, D-Fargo, presented House Bill 1337 to the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee.
Zaiser's bill would raise the state minimum wage to $7.25 per hour by Aug. 1. In addition, the minimum wage would be annually adjusted for inflation - using the consumer price index - starting in January 2009. The adjustment would be determined each September.
The state's current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is the same as the federal standard, which has not changed since 1997.
Most people would say the bill is unfriendly to businesses, Zaiser said. While it may be in the short term, he said the long term should be considered.
Employers need to keep in mind North Dakota's struggle to find workers, Zaiser said.
"People are not coming to North Dakota. They're leaving North Dakota because the wages are so low," he said.
A better-paid work force also means higher morale, more productivity and less turnover, he added.
Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, asked Zaiser why government needs to dictate what businesses pay.
About 4,000 people in the state live on minimum wage, Zaiser said. Raising the wage shouldn't impact that many businesses, "but it surely has an impact on those folks that live on $5.15 an hour," he added.
During the 90-minute hearing, the North Dakota Education Association, the North Dakota AFL-CIO and the American Association of University Women also testified in support of the bill.
Rep. Mark Dosch, R-Bismarck, said he's always believed market conditions will set wages. He voiced concern about what the bill would do to small communities struggling to survive.
Nicki Weissman of the North Dakota Hospitality Association also questioned the bill, saying it will put people out of work in rural areas.
"Employers should decide when and where employees should get a raise, not the government," Weissman said.
The committee did not act on the bill Tuesday.
Three additional bills under consideration
Three other minimum wage bills will also be considered by the North Dakota Legislature:
- House Bill 1454 would require employers to pay at least $6.15 an hour, starting Jan 1. Starting Jan. 1, 2009, employers would have to pay at least $7 per hour to employees 19 or older or to employees younger than 19 who are the head of a single-parent household. Rules adopted by the labor commissioner could provide for a minimum wage less than the state's wage for employees working in small communities and for employees of small businesses. The prime sponsor of the bill is Rep. Mark Owens, R-Grand Forks.
- Senate Bill 2370 is the same as the legislation that Congress is looking at. The bill would increase the state's minimum wage to $5.85 per hour after the federal change takes effect, if a federal change occurs. One year after the effective date, the wage would increase to $6.55 per hour. A year later, the wage would increase to $7.25 per hour. The prime sponsor of the bill is Sen. Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck.
- Senate Bill 2122 increases the minimum wage to $5.85 per hour Aug. 1, to $6.55 on June 1, 2008, and to $7.25 on June 1, 2009. The prime sponsor of the bill is Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo.
*All three bills allow for exemptions that are currently in state law and rules adopted by the labor commissioner.
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