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Minimum wage takes a step up

"Nineteen-year-old Oak Harbor resident Ty Beaumont left his parents' house to live on his own. He works for minimum wage at a local sandwich shop, so he wasn't exactly headed for the lap of luxury. Beaumont ended up sleeping on a couch for weeks in a house with three other young men.Though he wasn't aware that the minimum wage increased on Jan. 1, Beaumont said he definitely welcomes it. The state's minimum wage increased from $6.50 to $6.72 an hour, making it one of the highest in the nation.Hell yah man, I need it, Beaumont said. He said he's been able to get by working part-time on minimum wage, but it's not exactly luxurious and the cost of living is always increasing.On the other side, managers at local fast food restaurants say that the minimum wage increase is a bad idea because it forces businesses that rely on low-wage employees to either cut workers or raise prices.Steve Swankie, a long-time manager at Burger King, said that minimum wage increases have forced him to cut many jobs. At one time he had 10 or 11 people working during the busy lunch hour, but he said he had to cut it down to seven workers. We have to sacrifice speed and service, he said.Swankie said he's going to take another look at staffing levels because of the recent hike, but he doubts there is any room for tightening.Another effect of the high minimum wage, Swankie said, is that all regular employees make basically the same salary, regardless of their skills or seniority. He says a guy who walks in off the street will make as much as someone who has worked there for a year.The government pretty much sets our raises here, he said. We would like to pick and choose (raises). There are some people who deserve a raise and others who don't.At Arby's, manager Diane Gier said they do things a little differently. There are four levels of salaries for employees. When the minimum wage is increased, she said wages are increases throughout the system.To make up for the increase in wages, Gier said the corporation has increased the price on a couple of sandwiches by around 5 cents.The whole market is going to go up, she said. Like many critics of the minimum wage, Gier said the minimum wage increase really is self-defeating. If wages increase then prices on everything ultimately increase, nullifying the effect of the increase.But for many of those working in minimum wage jobs, hikes in the minimum wage may be the only way they can get regular pay increases that keep up with increases in the cost of living. Oak Harbor is a market literally flooded with people willing to work those kinds of jobs.And for Beaumont, 22 cents extra for an hour of work really will make a difference in his quality of life. "

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