ALPENA - President Barack Obama is pressuring congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and in Michigan, petitions are about to be presented to the public urging state government to do the same. The last time the federal government increased the minimum wage for workers was in 2009 and Michigan did a year prior.
In Alpena there seems to be a mixed opinion on whether a bump for the minimum wage would help people escape poverty, or result in job loss and/or increased costs to goods and services nation wide.
Brittany Donakowski,20, is single and has no children. She said paying her bills is a challenge, even though she is currently working two jobs in Alpena. She said an increase in the minimum wage would be nice, but there probably would be fallout due to it. Donakowski said she also thinks it is unfair to a certain degree that people who have had to work years to make $10 an hour or more would lose out on a raise.
"It think it would be fair, but I also think the prices of things would go up, so it is still going to be a struggle," Donakowski said. "Having only one job is really hard to keep up with the bills. When you figure rent, utilities, phone and gas in the car and medical bills, you have to have more than one job."
Kiley Szatkowski said when he graduated from high school minimum wage was much lower and he had to work hard to earn pay increases. He said along the way he has landed other jobs that paid him more and now he owns his own contracting business. He said he believes the current rate is fair.
"It was $5 an hour when I started and I had to work my way up," Szatkowski said. "I think $7.20 is good for a kid starting out, but I can see how difficult it would be for someone with a family. As far as prices going up, I don't think an increase will make a difference. I think it is going to continue to climb regardless."
Kendra Cornelius is a retired teacher in Alpena. She said she is supportive of an increase to the minimum wage, although she said it could have a negative impact on small businesses. She said after the government takes its chunk out of a person's paycheck there isn't much left to live on.
"I really don't know how some people are surviving on minimum wage without assistance. Even if someone works full time, after all of the deductions there isn't much left." Cornelius said. "I'm scared that if it does go higher, though, that some people will lose their jobs altogether and it will be hard for them to find another."
Bryan Defoe said he is not against an increase to Michigan's minimum wage, but thinks going up almost $3 at one time may hurt a still struggling economy. He said maybe a boost now would help some and another in a few years would relieve some pressure for those who work minimum wage jobs and the businesses that employ them.
"Ten dollars seems awful high to me. I know the price of living is high and maybe people would have a little more in their pocket to spend, but I'm not sure businesses wouldn't be hurt by it and have to raise their prices," Defoe said. "Maybe increase it by $1 or a dollar and a half then look at it again in the future. To go from about $7 to $10 though, I think that might be too much."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.