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Life on Minimum Wage

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Bluefield, WV (WVVA)--Is it possible to live comfortably while bringing home what the federal government has deemed the lowest fair hourly wage?

"Do you think minimum wage is set at a fair level? 'No it's not.' What would you like to see it set at? ' At least $10-$12.'"  And he's not alone, our interview, who has requested that his identity not be revealed works in the fast food industry.  Earlier this year fast food workers in 60 cities across the U.S. walked off the job to protest for higher wages.

Dr. Charlotte Davis with the Division of Business at Concord University says minimum wage was established in the late 1930's, and it has not always risen at a pace that keeps up with the cost of living.  "It's not set with the inflation rate, and prior to it going up from $5.15, it had been $5.15 for I think ten years."

Since 2009, the Federal Minimum Wage has remained at $7.25 an hour.  Twenty-three states, including the Two Virginias, have set minimum wage at that rate.

"How long does your paycheck typically last you?," asked Brittany Williams.  "Two or three days.," said local fast food employee.

One argument against raising wages is the impact it would have on an employer's budget, and as a result, the job market.  "It is possible that they will hire fewer employees, but not a lot fewer." said Dr. Davis.

Dr. Davis says ultimately, raising minimum wage by a few dollars wouldn't hurt businesses, especially large corporations.  "Raising the minimum wage doesn't put the employer at a disadvantage, because competitors would be required to pay the employees at least the same amount."

She adds, another benefit would be employee loyalty.  "If they raise wages a little bit, then I am more likely to stay with them because I am a little more loyal to them, not a lot maybe because it is minimum wage, but in general, turnover is lower when employers pay a little bit more."

Dr. Davis adds that research suggests a living wage would be between $10-$14 an hour to support a family of four.  "A living wage is just the bare minimum that someone could get by on, because most people who are paid minimum wage have two or three jobs, or are two wage earners who are just barely able to make it because it is not considered to be a livable wage, its below poverty level."

The man in our interview says just couple dollars more a paycheck would make a big impact on his family.  "It would be a whole lot different, because I would have extra money to do extra things. If the kids need shoes, I could go spend some money on shoes, and I wouldn't have to worry about going over my budget."

Nationwide, supporters of raising the minimum wage suggest the additional spending would give the economy a boost, but the man in our interview may not support that idea as he dreams of the day when his bank account reveals a different number.  "I wouldn't spend it, I would save it."

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