Republicans on a legislative committee blocked multiple bills Thursday that would have raised the minimum wage for Louisiana workers from $7.25, which ties with six other states for lowest in the country.
One of the proposed bills, House Bill 311 authored by Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, would have gradually raised the minimum wage from $10 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2023, to $12 an hour Jan. 1, 2024.
Raising the minimum wage is a necessary step to show Louisiana workers they’re valued, Marcelle said. Staff workers at the Capitol who make minimum wage have said they have to work a full day in order to pay for the gas to get there, she said.
“We look at them and say… ‘we thank you,’ and we invite them to barbecues down the street where we spend more than the money that we’re talking about here,” Marcelle said. “If you really value them, you would pay them.”
Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, voted against every minimum wage raise proposal Thursday. He said the proposed increase would “make Louisiana worse off and reduce opportunities for employment for those that most need a job.”
Crews argued that minimum wage jobs are positions where people start, and keeping pay low for those jobs will motivate those workers to “move on up.” If the minimum wage is raised, he said those jobs won’t be available anymore because businesses couldn’t afford the increase or would consider automating the job cheaper.
“I see that you want to help people. I get that, but there’s a huge portion of this population that’s never going to be helped by this,” Crews said.
Marcelle said she believes offering people out of work a fair wage would help the employee shortage in Louisiana, not hurt it.
“Why would you go to work for $7.25 an hour If you… (would) pay more for daycare than what you’d be making at your job?” Marcelle said. “Those are the challenges that I know you people who fly in your (private) planes probably never had to deal with,” she said.
In Louisiana, job applications for state government are down 52% over the past two years, according to a report by The Advocate.
“The pandemic kind of changed people’s view of work,” said Byron P. Decoteau Jr., director of Louisiana State Civil Service, in the article.
“They just can’t recruit and attract,” Decoteau said of state agencies.
If minimum wages increased in Louisiana, 198,000 women – nearly 23% of all women in the workforce – would get a raise,said Davante Lewis, director of public affairs and outreach at the Louisiana Budget Project. About 180,000 workers of color – nearly 27% of all people of color in the state’s workforce – would also see a pay increase.
Census numbers for 2020 show nearly one-quarter of children in Louisiana live in poverty. According to federal data, the state’s poverty line for a family of four is $26,500.
“We are in strong support of HB 311 because we know it is time for Louisiana to pay people what they are worth,” he said to the committee.
Republicans also voted down a bill that would have raised the pay of state workers to $9 per hour from $7.25 per hour, and another bill that would have put a minimum wage hike of $11.65 per hour on the 2022 statewide ballot this fall.
The votes on the bills in the House Labor Committee were all along party lines.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.