Las Cruces starts the new year with a new minimum wage. The wage increases by 90 cents today...going from the state-mandated $7.50 an hour to $8.40. It’s the first of three planned increases, which should result in a $10.10 minimum wage in 2019.
The city council altered the law’s original schedule, which would have increased the wage to $10.10 two years earlier in 2017…a law proposed by the nonprofit group Communities in Action and Faith…or Café…which collected petition signatures to get the measure on the ballot or have it approved by city council.
KRWG produced a documentary on the issue before the council voted on the changes. In the documentary, some expressed concern about raising the minimum wage, including Vince Vaccaro, owner of Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant on University Avenue. Vaccaro said he feared smaller businesses would suffer from higher labor costs in an economy already dominated by large chains with out of state owners.
A number of Las Cruces businesses have already talked about price increases. One in particular, Daddy O’s Car Wash, which has two locations in the city, even noted rising wages, along with a number of other factors on a sign announcing price hikes in the new year.
But increases in the minimum wage don’t always lead to higher prices. In a column that appeared this week in the Las Cruces Sun News and in newspapers nationwide, Chris Sommers wrote about his experience increasing his lowest paid employees to $10.10 an hour last spring. The co-owner of Pi Pizzerias and Gringo Mexican Restaurants located in Missouri and elsewhere said the higher pay led to increased productivity and reduced turnover at his restaurants, not higher prices. He talked about the experience in an interview with South Carolina radio station WGCV, where he added that a higher minimum wage can lead to more spending in a community.
Sommers is a member of the group Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, which is pushing for a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour. Provided no additional changes by the city council, the Las Cruces minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $9.20 in 2017 and $10.10 in 2019.