One of the leaders of a Gilsum-based business testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business on Wednesday, speaking in favor of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Addressing the committee via video call, W.S. Badger Company’s co-CEO, Rebecca Hamilton, urged Congress to support the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which aims to increase the minimum wage incrementally until it reaches $15 an hour in June 2025. Hamilton was invited to speak by U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., a member of the committee.
New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not have a minimum wage higher than the national minimum of $7.25 an hour. Badger offers a $15 minimum wage to entry-level employees, according to a Tuesday news release from the company.
W.S. Badger produces Badger Balm and a full range of other skin-care products.
“As a small, family-owned and run business in rural Gilsum, NH, Badger’s innovative approach to wages and benefits has made it an employer-of-choice in the region,” the release says. “Fair pay has helped Badger to succeed and grow and hire and retain excellent staff.”
In her testimony, Hamilton said that when Badger participated in workforce development meetings with other companies, elected officials, educators and researchers, she noticed that other businesses that don’t pay higher wages struggled to develop their workforces. Badger, she said, has been successful in doing so, saving the company money and enhancing efficiency.
“The more we can retain already trained staff, the more money we saved, the more reliable our staff, the better our productivity,” Hamilton said during Wednesday’s hearing. “The success of our business is directly tied to the dedication of our staff.”
While proponents of raising the minimum wage argue that the increase is necessary to ensure workers a living wage, opponents say doing so would result in job losses and put strain on small businesses that are already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study released earlier this month by the Congressional Budget Office projects that the increase would lift 900,000 people out of poverty but cost 1.4 million jobs.
The Raise the Wage Act, formally known as House Resolution 603, was introduced on Jan. 28 and is currently under committee review before being sent back to lawmakers for a vote.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour has also been discussed as part of President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. But the fate of that proposal is up in the air, with some Democrats breaking from their party and voicing opposition to including a minimum-wage hike in the bill, citing concerns about its impact on small businesses. There are also questions about whether it can be included in the bill for procedural reasons.