CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — More than two dozen protesters gathered outside the McDonald’s, on Charleston’s East End, demanding the company raise its minimum wage to 15-dollars per hour. Similar rallies were held in more than 30 U.S. cities today. Supporters say people can’t live on the current minimum wage of 8-dollars and 75-cents in the Mountain State.
“West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the nation and people are struggling. There is many folks here living in poverty. It’s really important that we get, you know, 15-dollars an hour,” said Esti Lamonaca, from the veteran’s activist group, Common Defense.
“15-dollars an hour is barely a minimum wage, but it’s a start. If we want our kids to have moneys to invest, if we want our kids to have money to be successful ,if we want ourselves to be successful, we got to start somewhere,” said Martec Washington, a Charleston worker.
Some businesses are already raising their minimum wage because of the worker shortage prompted by COVID-19.
But opponents say driving the minimum wage that high could actually displace workers, or hurt them in other ways. Jessi Troyan is an economist with the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy. She’s especially worried about small businesses.
“Maybe they are able to, say retain the six employees, but they all have fewer hours now. So while their hourly wage may go up, their take home pay may go down,” said Jessi Troyan, Ph.D., from the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.
Still, West Virginia at $8.75 is still higher than the current federal minimum wage is 7-25 per hour. The last time the federal minimum wage was increased was in 2009.
“Not only do these protesters want private businesses like McDonald’s to raise the minimum wage to 15-dollars an hour, they want to see Congress do it across the board for all Americans,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.