S.C. employers would have to pay workers at least $1 an hour more than the federal minimum wage if two bills filed Tuesday pass the General Assembly.
The bills, introduced by six Democratic state senators, also would adjust the minimum wage based on inflation each year.
The bills were not well received by Republicans, who control the S.C. Carolina Legislature, meaning they have little chance of passing.
“I would be concerned that this would have an adverse effect on continuing economic improvement,” said state Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, whip of the GOP Senate caucus, which builds party consensus.
Under the proposals, workers could file complaints about employers who fail to pay the minimum wage. Businesses would have 15 days to make up unpaid wages before legal action is taken. The state Attorney General’s office also could go after violators. Employers could not retaliate against workers who file complaints under the proposed minimum-wage law.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
An extra $1 an hour would add $2,080 to the $15,080 a year that a current worker earning the federal minimum age receives.
State Sen. John Scott, D-Richland Democrat, chief sponsor of the bills, said the rising cost of health care and payroll taxes are “coming out of paychecks of hard-working citizens.”
“Why not begin to reward people for work? This $2,000 (yearly) roughly would make a tremendous difference in a household’s income,” he said, adding families living on one or more minimum-wage jobs would benefit from the slight monthly boost in cash, which could help them meet transportation and other needs.
Scott was joined in sponsoring the bills by five fellow Democratic state senators – Darrell Jackson of Richland, Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, Kevin Johnson of Clarendon, John Matthews of Orangeburg and Glenn Reese of Spartanburg.
“It’s easy to say people would be better off if we pay them more money,” responded Republican Massey. “The problem is that money has to come from somewhere. If McDonald’s has to pay more ... they’re either going to charge more, or they’re not going to hire more people.”
A better solution, Massey said, would be to provide people with the “training and skills they need to get higher paying jobs, rather than forcing employers to pay higher wages for low-skilled jobs.”