by James DeChene
The Delaware House of Representatives held a late night, with a 3:30 a.m. vote to increase Delaware’s minimum wage by $.50 twice next year, in January and October 2019. House Republicans were able to negotiate the passage of a bill that would create two lower-wage groups—a training wage, and a teen wage, to be paid at most $.50 under the minimum wage once the bill goes into effect on January 1, 2019.
The Delaware State Chamber, along with other business groups, were on hand throughout the last night of session to provide input and feedback on how this legislation was being crafted and handled.
Each year legislation has been introduced to raise the minimum wage, which was last raised in 2015. Each year the legislation is sent to the Senate Labor Committee (as it generally originates in the Senate), where it passes, and goes to the full Senate for a vote. This year, the first minimum wage bill, SB110, followed that process.
At a hearing lasting two hours and full of testimony from nonprofits, the agriculture community, and members of chambers from around the state, all offered testimony on the negative impact increasing the minimum wage would have on their businesses and their employees. Ultimately SB110 would fail in the Senate when it came up for a floor vote.
Fast forward to later in the year when SB170 was introduced, another bill by the same sponsor, Sen. Marshall, that would raise the minimum wage. The bill was heard, and released, from the Senate Labor Committee. On July 30, SB170 passed the Senate as part of a negotiated deal to provide relief for Delaware casinos, and headed over to the House and was assigned to the House Economic Development Committee.
In years past (at least since 2014), when a minimum wage bill passed the Senate, and headed to the House, the bill was heard, and failed in committee. The same process of having impacted businesses, nonprofits and farms share their stories followed, and ultimately, members of that committee would vote to defeat the bill.
Last night, in a dramatic departure from the usual process, members of the House voted to bring SB170 to the floor for action under a suspension of the rules, a process normally reserved for non-controversial bills. As evidenced this year, with other legislation in the Senate, departure from that process seems to be increasing in its frequency, a trend we hope does not become the norm.
What is most disturbing about what happened on July 1, is that members of the general public, both opponents and supporters of a minimum wage increase, were unable to have their voices heard. Thankfully, a second bill was negotiated to provide alternative wages for training and for teens, but that shouldn’t have been undertaken in the wee hours of the morning.
The Delaware State Chamber, along with the New Castle County Chamber, the Central Delaware Chamber, the Delaware Restaurant Association, the Delaware Food Industry Council, the Delaware Chain Drug Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, and other business groups have all worked together over the years, including this year, to let legislators know the negative impacts of raising the minimum wage, and the numerous studies showing how it negatively impacts the employees they are trying to help.
The Chamber remains disappointed in the passage of SB170 and will continue with others in the business community to maintain the message that these types of bills hurt business and they hurt workers. Legislators will continue to be told that businesses will have to decide how to cut additional costs to pay for this added payroll expense. It is imperative that people working full time for minimum wage are encouraged to add to their education and outfit themselves with skills that meet workforce needs in order to improve their personal or family situation.
For more information regarding Chamber advocacy efforts, please contact me at email@example.com.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.