NEW YORK - February 8 - Women-owned businesses are growing at twice the national average. Most minimum wage workers are women. Yet women business leaders have been largely ignored in the public debate over minimum wage, with business typically represented by businessmen and lobbyists making baseless claims that raising the minimum wage will cause harm. The minimum wage has been $5.15 -- a meager $10,712 for year-round, full-time work -- since 1997. Women business owners nationwide have already demonstrated that you don't need to pay workers poverty wages to succeed. Business and Professional Women/USA and the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce say a long-overdue raise will be good for business, workers and the economy.
"The current minimum wage rate is an insult to workers and employers," says Amy Ventura, co-president of Storm Graphic Arts, the 2006 Business of the Year, Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce in Virginia. "Yes, small business owners must spend wisely, but this means paying our workforce a fair wage if we expect quality work. I'm not looking for tax breaks or other 'helpful' legislation. I want the federal government to recognize hard work and raise the minimum wage so everyone who works can support themselves and their families."
Successful women business owners and CEO signing the statement at www.businessforafairminimumwage.org range across some of the toughest industries and small businesses in every state, including Eileen Fisher apparel company, Broetje Orchards in Washington -- one of the largest privately owned orchards in the world, C&D Production in Louisiana, IceStone manufacturers in New York, Candle Enterprises in Minnesota, Small Business Survival in Oklahoma, and restaurants large and small.
"I know firsthand how raising entry-level wages is good for business as well as workers," says Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Cafe, a thriving 24-year-old Philadelphia business with more than 100 employees. "The White Dog Cafe pays a minimum of $9 an hour within three months, plus health and retirement benefits. With higher pay and benefits and therefore lower turnover, the staff is more experienced and committed to their work, which is key to the restaurant's success. Today's minimum wage shortchanges workers and undermines the long-term health of businesses, communities and the economy."
Women business leaders know it isn't good for women or the economy that the middle class is shrinking while the gap between CEOs (nearly all men) and minimum wage workers (disproportionately women) has grown to outrageous proportions. The highest paid CEO made as much as 239 minimum wage workers in 1968, when the minimum wage was at its peak value of $9.27 in today's dollars. The highest paid CEO in 2005 made as much as 23,282 minimum wage workers.
Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, says, "More than a quarter of all working women hold service, production, transportation and material moving occupations, which are often subject to low pay, minimum wage earnings. When businesses don't pay a living wage all society pays. It's time to stop giving endless airtime to business lobbyists who want to keep minimum wage low, which keeps women down."
"Paying people a fair wage is a sign of respect and acknowledgement of the value of people's contributions to the business," says Amy Lyman, co-founder and chair of the board of directors of the Great Place to Work Institute, a global research and management consultancy based in the U.S. "When people are treated fairly and with respect, they will provide unparalleled levels of support and commitment inside the business, and to clients and customers. Everyone is more successful when people are paid a living wage."
For a fast-growing list of more than 500 business owners and executives across the nation supporting a higher minimum wage, please visit Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
BUSINESS OWNERS AND EXECUTIVES FOR A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE
We, the undersigned business owners and executives, support an increase in the minimum wage to benefit workers, business and our economy. We know that a minimum wage of $5.15 an hour is simply not enough for workers to afford necessities for themselves and their families. We know that a fair wage floor is essential to healthy businesses and communities, and enduring economic growth.
We expect an increased minimum wage to provide a boost to local economies. Businesses and communities will benefit as low-wage workers spend their much-needed pay raises at businesses in the neighborhoods where they live and work.
Higher wages benefit business by increasing consumer purchasing power, reducing costly employee turnover, raising productivity, and improving product quality, customer satisfaction and company reputation. In a recent National Consumers League survey, for example, 76 percent of American consumers said "how well a company treats/pays employees influences what they buy."
States that have raised their minimum wages above the inadequate $5.15 federal level have had better employment and small business trends than the other states. Studies by the Fiscal Policy Institute and others show that in states with minimum wages above $5.15, the number of small businesses and the number of small business employees grew more than the other states -- contrary to what critics predicted. Likewise, after the last federal minimum wage increases in 1996 and 1997, the nation experienced lower unemployment, low inflation, robust growth and declining poverty rates.
At $5.15 an hour, today's minimum wage workers have less buying power than minimum wage workers had half a century ago. We cannot build a strong 21st century economy on a 1950's wage floor. We cannot build a strong 21st century economy when more and more hardworking Americans struggle to make ends meet.
A fair minimum wage shows we value both work and responsible businesses. A fair minimum wage is a sound investment in the future of our communities and our nation.