(GARY, Ind.) – Indiana Senate Democrats argue a boost in the minimum wage is the answer to a shortage of workers.
Indiana is one of 20 states which haven’t raised their minimum wage beyond the federal requirement of $7.25 an hour. Gary Senator Eddie Melton (D) introduced a bill this year to more than double it to $15 an hour over five years. That would move Indiana from the nation’s lowest minimum wage to the highest, tied with the District of Columbia, and a dollar above the highest among the 50 states.
The proposal didn’t get a hearing, but legislators technically haven’t adjourned — they’ll return at some point to deal with redistricting. Democrats say while they’re at it, they should revive the minimum wage proposal too. Melton argues at a minimum, legislators should repeal a ban on cities and counties setting their own, higher wage floors.
The wage debate has flared again in recent weeks as employers say they can’t find enough workers to rebuild their staffs. Republicans have blamed the increase in unemployment benefits included in President Biden’s pandemic relief bill, arguing it’s made staying home more profitable than working. Indiana is one of 23 states, all with Republican governors, to announce they’ll stop paying the $300-a-week federal add-on to state benefits.
Indiana has lost jobs the last two months, even as fewer Hoosiers received unemployment checks. Democrats contend the problem is employers aren’t paying enough.
Some businesses have said they’re offering pay well above the current minimum of $7.25 and still can’t find workers. Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) suggests those wages may be for part-time jobs or don’t come with benefits. If that’s the case, he argues they’re still not addressing the problem.
Senate Democrats are also calling on Congress to pass Biden’s infrastructure bill. Biden has endorsed a national $15 minimum wage and has made it the minimum for federal contractors, but it’s not part of the infrastructure bill. The bill does call for the local prevailing wage for workers on projects funded by the plan.
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