Montana’s roughly 8,000 minimum wage workers will see a 20-cent-per-hour pay bump starting next Tuesday.
That means workers currently earning Montana’s minimum wage of $8.30 cents per hour will see that rate increase to $8.50 an hour.
Barbara Wagner says it’s not a wage increase as much as it is an adjustment for inflation.
“It does not increase their standard of living. It’s just keeping somebody at the same level they were at the prior year,” she said.
Wagner, the Chief Economist for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, says the wage bump is rooted in state law.
“It requires our minimum wage be increased by the rate of inflation over the past year and adjusted to maintain the wage with inflation.”
Almost two percent of Montana’s workforce earns a minimum wage. Most of those workers are in the accommodations and food service industries, followed by the retail trade.
The Montana Chamber of Commerce generally opposes mandatory minimum wage hikes. Chamber President and CEO Cary Hegreberg says they put unnecessary pressure on employers.
“This increase may actually lead to them providing fewer hours to their workers during the course of the year as they try to trim their costs. In some cases, they may reduce benefits to some workers.”
Hegreberg says Montana employers need more skilled workers than they do government-mandated wage hikes. He asserts more high school and two-year college training programs will lead to better paying jobs.
Bozeman City Commissioner Terry Cunningham is leading the charge for a local $15 an hour minimum wage for city employees by the year 2020. This summer officials increased those wages to $13 an hour.
“We want the people who represent Bozeman and are on the front lines to be good employees and we’re willing to be competitive in our wages.”
Cunningham says Montana’s soon-to-be $8.50 minimum wage is completely inadequate.
“No one in Bozeman would be able to survive on that rate. That is not a realistic number for Bozeman or any major city in Montana. “
Besides Montana, up to 21 states and the District of Columbia will see minimum wage increases next year.