SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Mayor of Shelby County wants to see Tennessee more than double its minimum wage this upcoming legislative session.
Despite a similar bill not getting out of the subcommittee in March, Mayor Lee Harris hopes that the rising cost of everyday goods will convince state lawmakers to adopt a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
Tennessee is one of about 20 states where the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is the standard.
“They are facing higher gas prices, higher costs for groceries, and they are living in one of the most inflationary periods that we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” Harris said. “We can do something about it. The Tennessee General Assembly can do something about it.”
However, before the bill is even filed, Senate Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said he will oppose any effort to set a state minimum wage. Johnson said a minimum wage would hurt job creation and growth in the state.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn echoed Johnson’s views in 2021 during a virtual roundtable with Tennessee small business owners.
“A $15 minimum wage would destroy small businesses and job opportunities in our workforce,” Blackburn said. “Some politicians are trying to fit their radical agenda into the already massive spending bill.”
Nashville restaurant group owner disagrees with Johnson and thinks $15 should be the bare minimum.
“It’s way past due in my opinion,” Tom Morales said. “We haven’t hired anybody for under $15 an hour in years.”
According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a living wage for a Tennessean is $15.45 for a single person with no children.
“A fair base pay for a fair day’s work sounds like justice to me,” Mayor Harris said.
Morales explained that market pressures and a shortage of workers in the restaurant industry have already forced many businesses to raise wages. He said raising wages can help reduce turnover and increase productivity.
“I challenge a lawmaker to live off $15 an hour,” he said.
When asked where they stand on this issue, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce said, “the Chamber’s longstanding position has been that the federal government sets the minimum wage.”