Whether you think it’s a good thing or not, Vermont’s minimum wage increased from $9.60 to $10 an hour on Jan. 1. The minimum basic wage for tipped employees like waitstaff rose from $4.80 to $5 an hour.
The changes are part of a stage of increases to Vermont’s minimum wage and tipped wage that former Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law in 2014. The legislation phased in an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 per hour by 2018.
So it will rise again to $10.50 an hour and $5.25 for tipped employees on Jan. 1, 2018. After that, the minimum wage will continue to go up each year as the consumer price index does or by 5 percent, whichever is lower.
Shumlin said the phased-in method softens the impact of the wage increase on businesses.
Many businesses have complained that they can’t afford the increases, phased-in or otherwise, but the legislature hasn’t changed anything. It’s unknown what Gov. Phil Scott will ask them to do. During the election campaign, he didn’t say specifically. But he did say: “I support increased wages, but I don’t support another mandate.”
It’s mostly working women who will benefit from the increase, since 60 percent of minimum wage workers are women. It’s often repeated that minimum wage workers are chiefly teenagers just starting in the workforce, but nationally more than 88 percent of minimum wage workers are older than age 20, and the average age is 35.
Shumlin and other New England governors appeared with President Obama last year in Connecticut to ask for a national increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
With Donald Trump elected president, it’s unlikely that will happen in the next four years.
Vermont is one of 26 states and the District of Columbia that have a minimum wage higher than the national minimum, or have authorized a higher wage to take effect in the future.
Whether you support a higher minimum wage or not, statistics showed that it was pretty much impossible to support a family with a minimum wage job. And 30 percent of minimum wage earners are parents.
Many businesses currently pay minimum wages that exceed the federal rate. From the numbers of signs in business hubs like West Lebanon, NH promising to pay workers $10 a hour and up if they will please just come in and apply, it may be that there’s a shortage of people who will work for the minimum wage.
It doesn’t look like we’ll be going back to a lower minimum wage. We’ll have to wait and see what Gov. Scott does now that he’s in office.