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Minimum wage debate intensifies after major city’s increase to $15/hr

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INDIANAPOLIS- It’s being called the ‘fight for 15’ – and this week city leaders in Seattle made a big move that’s now being applauded by those supporting a higher minimum wage.

On Monday night, Seattle’s city council approved a resolution to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest in the nation.

So what’s the reaction from business leaders here in Indiana?

“It’s insane, it really is,” said Barbara Quandt, the Indiana director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “Obviously the future will tell, but it’s not going to be a good result.”

Quandt says raising the wage here in Indiana would be disastrous.

“If you’re talking $15 an hour, your local Dairy Queen is maybe out of business because they’re not going to be able to afford that,” said Quandt.

But others have a different view.

Latisha Allender makes just above the minimum wage working at McDonald’s. Recently she and other fast food workers took part in a one-day strike to rally for a higher minimum wage.

“We’re just out here just trying to make it, to pay our rent and utilities and stuff. It’s hard,” said Allender.

“People who work hard still cannot make ends meet,” said Leslie Mendoza Kamstra with the Service Employees International Union. “Yet the corporations they work for are making more and more each year.”

“You would not have jobs for kids,” said Quandt. “Who is going to hire a student at $15 an hour when they could hire an older worker? … They’re either going to have raise prices, lay off people, and/or go out of business.”

“We’re making 86 cents on the dollar compared to other states,” said Kamstra. “People don’t have money to put back in the economy so increasing the minimum wage is what will make our economy stronger.”

“I don’t think that can possibly fly,” said Mike Hutson, a business owner in Westfield. Hutson says he pays more than the minimum wage at his business, Westfield Lighting. But he says raising it to $15 would be a mistake, and bad for business in the end.

“Fifteen dollars is a lot more than even what the federal government is talking about,” said Hutson. “You can’t force business to spend more money than what they have, so businesses would have to find a way around that. Usually that means cutting staff.”

An effort to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour was shot down this year by the Indiana general assembly, and similar measures have also failed in Congress.

“I’m tired of working two jobs,” said Allender. “They make enough to pay us more, they do… We’re not asking for much.”

“I’d just prefer for the government to get out of my hair,” said Hutson. “And they can take that to the bank.”