Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. Lawmakers Once Again Consider Raising State Minimum Wage

Geffert at desk, no page.jpg

West Virginia lawmakers are questioning if the state’s $8.75 an hour minimum wage is enough to live on.

Preston County resident Lucien Funk,16, was serving breakfast at the state Capitol this week. Lucien said he helps support his single mom and siblings by driving to neighboring Maryland for part time work that pays a little better.

Lucien said he learned first hand the adult challenges of a minimum wage job. “People out there with families, they gotta get these jobs, they can’t feed their kids, then the kids go hungry, it hurts,” Funk said.

Sen. Hannah Geffert, D-Berkeley, is sponsoring a bill that would raise West Virginia’s minimum wage from $8.75 to $10.50 an hour. She said the state needs to keep up with skyrocketing inflation.

“You can’t work without child care, it’s costly. You need clothes, a car perhaps, and some people have to make decisions,” Geffert said. “Do I go to work and lose money or stay home and take care of my children?”

But Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, believes free market economics is driving jobs and wages, prompting no need to raise the minimum wage.

“Be it fast food or Walmart, they are paying above minimum wage just to find labor,” Sypolt said. “So, as the economy grows and there’s a shortage of labor, there’s going to be an increase in wages and salaries.”

More than half the states across America, including four out of five of West Virginia’s neighboring states, are preparing to raise their minimum wages.

Del. Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, introduced a companion bill that raises West Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour by 2025. Thompson said when neighboring states increase their minimum wages, West Virginia’s market will decline.

“They can cross the border, get $3, $4 or $5 more an hour, it puts our people at a disadvantage,” Thompson said.

Lucien Funk said without state wage reform, he’s out of here.

“I know a bunch of kids that say ‘As soon as I graduate, I’m moving out of Terra Alta’,” Funk said.

West Virginia’s minimum wage has been $8.75 an hour since January 2016.