Nevada's Minimum Wage: Due for a Raise? - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Nevada's Minimum Wage: Due for a Raise?

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Across the country, protests started this week with restaurant workers taking their grievances to the street, striking for a raise in the minimum wage. Hundreds of workers walked off the job Monday in San Francisco, New York and St. Louis. Right now the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and it hasn't changed in 4 years.

Nevada's minimum wage is $8.25. That's what Robert Tansill makes as a server/expeditor at Peg's Glorified Ham ‘n Eggs in downtown Reno. Sure, he could use a raise: "Yeah, I mean, in my case I wouldn't be working 2 jobs if I made a little more."

And so could Stephanie Smedley, who works her butt off at Peg's for $8.25 an hour: a combination hostess, cashier, busser and counter waitress. Her husband helps her get by. As she told us, "He works full time and we combine our incomes. We have a little apartment downtown. We live frugally I would say."

And there's support from the customers. Just a few feet away, we met a group of 4 ladies enjoying their breakfast. All 4 think $8.25 is not enough. Christie Hanson told us, "You can't live on $8.25 an hour, even if you have people renting rooms. And at $8.25, you're renting…you're not owning."

Server Robert sees another benefit to a raise…more money for workers means more money to spend. As he told us, "If the minimum wage is higher, then more people would be able to eat too. I know a lot of people who don't go out for that."

But Peg's manager Jody Lee says any increase in the minimum wage would do the opposite, costing customers and jobs. She says to cover the cost, "Our pricing would have to go up. Everything would have to go up, even our deliveries." And sure, it's busy at Peg's now, but would it be if Jody had to raise her prices to pay that higher wage? Jody doesn't think so. As she put it, "Higher prices would mean less disposable income. Between paying their house payment or putting gas in their car or going to breakfast, it's an obvious choice what they'll cut."

Her view: fewer customers mean fewer dollars…for everyone. And even though minimum wage hostess Stephanie earns every penny she makes on this busy day, she sees her boss's logic. She told us the restaurant "would probably lose a lot of people. We get a lot of tourists and I think that would drop. There are people who pay attention that much to the price of an egg."

Then again, you have to wonder, especially these days, how folks can get by and live on $8.25 an hour. If and when the minimum wage increases again, it'll help these folks keep up with the cost of living, which has been rising at an even faster rate for the last 40 years.

Nevada's minimum wage is partially pegged to the national rate, which President Obama proposed raising to $9 an hour in his State of the Union Address. The state's minimum wage is set each year by the state labor commissioner. Currently it's $8.25 an hour, but employers who offer health benefits can pay $7.25. 3 months ago, the Nevada Labor Commissioner announced that there would be no increase in the state's minimum wage for 2013.

-written by John Potter

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