How minimum wage increase could affect South Dakotans

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 7:03 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - We’re learning more about President Joe Biden’s agenda and what it means for families. Among the items, getting a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed. That package includes raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. South Dakota’s current minimum wage is $9.45.

At Say Anything... Jewelry in downtown Sioux Falls, Owner Stephanie Wilde is planning on paying her employees a minimum of $15 an hour, despite any changes federally.

“I want to take care of the people that I have taking care of my clients and so I want to be able to let my helpers know here at the shop that I appreciate them and that they deserve to have that,” said Wilde.

It’s an idea she’s been planning to act on even before President Biden announced his plan.

However, she believes this wage increase isn’t ideal for every business.

“I’m a small shop with a very limited amount of employees, so for me, it’s easier to make that leap to a $15 an hour wage for all of my staff versus somebody who would have a much larger staff,” said Wilde.

“This is a really complicated issue and it can be quite divisive to be very honest,” said SDSU Economics Professor, Joseph Santos.

Santos says proponents argue a wage increase will help enhance workers’ lives.

While opponents argue raising the minimum wage could have unintended consequences, such as unemployment if employers aren’t able to afford to pay all their employees an increased wage. Or a price increase affecting consumers but allowing a business to keep all their staff.

“The proponents would argue no, but there is some market power there, some negotiating space, and the minimum wage would simply be requiring small businesses to effectively share profits in ways that at the moment they are not doing, but again proponents would argue they should,” said Santos.

Santos says when it comes to helping those who are struggling, economists say it important to look at more than just minimum wage to solve the problem.

“Maybe we should be directing efforts as well into training and workforce development and so forth bringing those folks into the labor force at levels where the market remunerates them with higher wages than they do now,” said Santos.

The existing federal minimum wage is $7.25 and hasn’t been raised since 2009.

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