Bill sought to boost Nevada minimum wage

CARSON CITY — State Sen. Tick Segerblom has requested the drafting of a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Nevada, but it won’t happen anytime soon even if it is successful in the 2015 legislative session.

The Senate joint resolution sought by the Las Vegas Democrat would have to pass two legislative sessions and then go to voters in 2018 before it could take effect.

The proposal comes as fast-food workers prepare to strike at restaurants across the country, including Las Vegas, on Thursday to win a $15-an-hour minimum wage as well as the right to unionize.

Workers are expected to strike at Las Vegas’ major fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC. Clergy, progressives and community supporters are expected to join fast-food workers on the strike lines.

Laura Martin, communications director for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada,which is helping to coordinate the action, said this will be the third protest by fast-food workers in Nevada.

“The strikes are growing bigger and bigger,” she said, noting that the actions are a federally protected activity that do not allow for retaliation.

The effort has gained momentum and produced results in the form of higher minimum wages being set around the country by states and local governments, Martin said.

“None of this would have happened if it had not been for the momentum of the worker movement,” she said. “A wage of $8.25 an hour is a poverty wage and just perpetuates the cycle of poverty.”

Segerblom said a change to the minimum wage requires a constitutional amendment because the issue was placed in the document by voters in 2006. The minimum wage in Nevada is now $8.25 an hour. Nevada’s wage is automatically set to be $1 higher than the federal minimum wage.

Segerblom said $15 seems appropriate given the number of years before it could take effect.

While the bill draft is still in discussion, he said the measure might include language saying the Legislature could raise, but not lower, the minimum wage if the changes took effect. Or the minimum wage could be indexed to keep pace with inflation, Segerblom said.

Segerblom said the minimum wage needs to be raised so that taxpayers don’t have to subsidize workers who don’t make enough to survive and who have to rely on government benefits to make ends meet.

“The reality is the ordinary taxpayer is subsidizing employers who pay the minimum wage,” he said.

A number of states and some county and city governments have acted on their own recently to increase the minimum wage. In June, the city of Seattle increased its minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

Efforts have been made recently at the federal level to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016, so far without success. The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has backed the increase to $10.10 an hour. In comments earlier this year, he said a Congressional Budget Office report showed that the increase would bring about 1 million people out of poverty.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.