Texomans both pleased, unsure about min. wage increase

Lawton_Although we are facing tough economic times, many Texomans got a pay raise today since the federal minimum wage went up 70-cents per hour.  Many workers were already earning more than the previous minimum of $5.85, but starting on Thursday, businesses are required to pay employees a minimum of $6.55 per hour.  Those who are getting a raise are definitely pleased, and their employers say that they are happy to oblige, but the question is whether workers will actually benefit from the paycheck boost.

When you think of minimum wage, you may think of fast food restaurants, and workers like Sunshine Stone who works at Wayne's Drive-In, and earned less than the new minimum say they are happy to line their pockets with a little more cash.  "I enjoy it greatly because I get more spending money and such," she said.  "Hopefully I can see the effects of it, because everything else has gone up," said fellow carhop Michelle Whipp.  "I'm thinking it's just going to be absorbed into everything else with my bills."

Wayne's Drive-In Co-Owner Bob Abshere says that he doesn't mind giving some of his workers a raise, but the timing couldn't be worse.  "We're looking at 20% increases in utilities and we're looking at food cost increases weekly, so it really puts a squeeze on," he says.  "I'm sure all businesses [are being squeezed], but the food service business' too.  If we increase enough to cover all our increased costs, we'd be looking at making ourselves non-competitive, so we know we're not going to do that," he says.  "We're going to be absorbing a lot of it, but we are going to have to take a small increase."

The food service industry isn't alone - even a Lawton tanning salon is factoring the raise into its costs.  Kevin Sutter with "Art of Tanning" says that he thinks raising the bar for employees is necessary - even if it means passing the extra expenses on to the customer.  "The cost of tanning here, we have not raised that, but we are going to have to look at that to cover those additional costs to employees to try and help them out a little bit."

For most minimum wage employees, every little bit helps - even a relatively minor raise of 70-cents.  Another workers says she hopes to spend her minimum wage increase on entertainment.  Sutter says that despite tough financial times, his business has not slowed.  He says people continue to pamper themselves with a massage or a trip to the tanning bed.

In 2008, the minimum wage will again increase from $6.55 per hour to $7.25.