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Employers make changes for minimum wage hike

Friday, December 22, 2006

(Photo)
Erica Vaughn, 17, clears a table at Rodchester's Deli in Sikeston.
SIKESTON -- For many the new year marks a fresh start and a time for change. But for those who earn minimum wage, it means making more money.

On Jan. 1 Missouri's minimum wage rate will increase from $5.15 an hour to $6.50 an hour.

Erica Vaughn, 17, of Sikeston works part-time at Rodchester's Deli in Sikeston. She said she's excited about earning more money but sees another side to it, too.

"In a way it's a good idea and it will help all the students in school, but because it's increasing, that will raise (the price of) everything else, too," Vaughn said.

On Nov. 7, nearly 76 percent of Missouri voters decided to increase the state's minimum wage rate for the first time since 1997.

Shawdi Williams, who owns Rodchester's Deli with her husband, Mark, said the couple are very aware of the upcoming increases.

"There's more involved than just a wage increase," Williams said. "... When you look at raising minimum wage, you can't just go in and change it for those making under $6.50. You have to raise all the employees' wages proportionally, or it's unfair."

So over the past few months, Williams and her husband have been looking at different ways to offset the wage increase, she said.

"We're going to restructure our whole menu," Williams said. "My husband and I have also doubled our workload to help compensate for it."

Restructuring the menu will include increasing prices some, Williams said. "For us, we're trying to upgrade the menu by adding different items and we're giving more value to what customers are spending," Williams said.

At the same time restaurant owners also want to provide great customer service, great quality food and a good working environment, she said.

The Williams also talked with other small-business owners in Sikeston, who are facing similar situations, Williams said.

"It directly affects us immediately, but if you don't do anything, you'll go out of business," Williams said.

The net cost alone of increasing the income of only its minimum wage earners and those who make less than $6.50 is over $2,000 a month, Williams said.

But overall, their employees have been great, and the situation has been positive, Williams said.

"In a way, it's kind of exciting because we're doing some different things," Williams said.

Child care is another field that includes minimum wage earners.

Jenny Jenkins, director of Care A Lot Learning Center in Kelso, said to offset the cost, the accredited learning center will increase its rates.

"We put out letters to parents this week, letting them know we will increase all their rates to pay for the staff," Jenkins said. "And we'll have to watch in other areas as well."

Like Williams, Jenkins said the center has to compensate its full-time employees, too.

"Even the ones who aren't earning at minimum wage or less than $6.50, we feel like we have to give a raise to them as well because they deserve more than part-time wages," Jenkins said.

John Jackovic, administrator of Sikeston Convalescent Center, said the nursing facility has been preparing for the wage hike since July.

"At this point and time, we have been preparing for this since legislation came up before the House and Senate. And with it being a political year, we knew something was inevitable."

In fact the center has brought most of its staff up to the new levels already, Jackovic said.

"It affects the bottom line," Jackovic said about the wage increases. "We're paid by state and federal funds. We're not like those large food chains where we can just raise the price of a cheeseburger."

Jackovic said there haven't been any big changes to implement the new rate.

Jackovic said: "If you've got a good employee, they're going to be a good employee -- whether they're making $6.50 an hour or $10 an hour."