Minimum-wage increase is no sweat off the back of Carson City employers

Cheryl and Tim McConnell, owners of Lefty's Burgers N Such and Lefty's Comstock Diner, voted for the minimum-wage increase on the November's ballot, and they adamantly voice their support for the low-wage earner while flipping garlic burgers and jotting down orders.

But like many Carson City business owners and managers who support the Nevada's proposed $1 increase of the minimum wage, the proposed Legislative action won't affect their bottom lines.

The McConnells already pay their nine employees more than $6 an hour.

The proposed increase, which passed in Nevada's Assembly Monday, could bring the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour for full-time employees. Employers who offer health-care benefits would be exempt from providing the increase.

"We start our employees off above the minimum wage because people deserve to make a living wage, plus because of where the economy is at, and the high cost of living," Cheryl McConnell said. " If people are going to support their families they need that."

One of her customers, retired lawyer Ed Glass, agrees.

"I think most people here aren't making a living wage, and they deserve more money," he said while reading a newspaper at the counter. "I think the job market is stuck at minimum wage."

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, estimated 51,000 Nevadans are making minimum wage. But none of them works for Capitol Automotive owner Larry Calkins.

After 40 years in the automotive business, 13 years in Carson City, he knows what it takes to run a successful business: pay the prevailing wage. And for skilled automotive technicians, that's $10 to $15 an hour. Calkins said wage increases should be based on supply and demand, not legislative action, because it's a "false way of spurring the economy.

"It doesn't affect me as an employer, but as a consumer it probably will," he said. "The cost of a hamburger may go up 25 cents."

Larry Osborne, executive vice president of the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber sent out a survey to all of its 1,300 members looking for any company that would be affected by the minimum-wage increase.

"We didn't find anyone who paid minimum wage," he said.

Low-wage earners in the urban center of Las Vegas may be the ones who mostly benefit from a minimum-wage increase, for no other reason than it's the largest populated area of the state, Osborne said. It's harder to retain employees on minimum wage in Northern Nevada, where there is a tighter job market.

"I'm sure there will be some in Northern Nevada, but the biggest share is probably located in Clark County," Osborne said.

Chris Small, manager of the Flower Bucket, said she, and many of the employees at the South Carson Street shop, support the increase. But everyone there already makes more than the proposed increase.

"The only ones who'll realize it's a long time coming are those who work for minimum wage," she said.

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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