UPDATE: This was approved: Rhode Island’s low-skill minimum wage workers will very likely get a wage increase under legislation that the Rhode Island House is poised to approve before the end of the current legislative session.
The measure would jump the state’s floor wage for workers from the current $8 per hour to $9 on January 1, 2015. Such legislation has been approved by the state Senate and the House Labor Committee and has been posted for action by the full House tomorrow.
Increasing the minimum wage has been a priority of labor and worker advocacy groups, most prominently the state AFL-CIO. Gov. Lincoln Chafee will sign the bill into law, according to a statement his office released this afternoon.
Chafee says a fair minimum wage makes ``economic and moral sense, and is sn essential ingredient for developing a desirable economic climate, building a stronger middle classs and ensuring a future livelihood for individuals and families not only in Rhode Island but throughout the nation.''
Rhode Island would join other states that have increased the minimum wage this year as the national debate over income inequality has resonated from Washington, D.C. to statehouses around the nation.
Vermont’s minimum wage will increase from the current $8.73 per hour to $10.50 over a four-year phase in approved by the Green Mountain State legislature and signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin. Delaware, Connecticut, West Virginia, Maryland and Hawaii have all hiked the minimum wage in their states in recent months.
President Barack Obama has called for a floor wage of $10.10 per month.
In Providence, a group of hotel workers have been lobbying for a city ordinance that would vault the minimum wage for hotel workers to $15 an hour. But the hospitality industry and some lawmakers, including House Labor Committee Chairman Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick, have opposed that move. Shekarchi told RI Public Radio that because of Rhode Island small size, that the minimum wage should be established at the state, not municipal, level.
Chafee, too, said that sound economic policy dictates that the state adopt a uniform minimum wage``rather than a patchwork of wage threshholds.''
Hotel industry representatives say a $15 minimum would put Providence at a competitive disadvantage with other cities in pursuing convention and tourist business. But hotel workers say a $15 floor wage is necessary so that they can lift their families out of poverty.