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Jacky Rosen discusses wages with business owners

Updated August 30, 2018 - 8:12 am

U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, a staunch supporter of raising the federal minimum wage, said Wednesday that a different “threshold” may be needed for small businesses with limited resources.

It’s the first time the Nevada Democrat, who’s challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, has publicly acknowledged considerations for small businesses, though she continues to support a push to raise wages to $15 by 2024.

“Maybe there has to be some kind of threshold because small businesses can’t grow, but if you’re a larger business, you can absorb it,” Rosen said during a panel discussion with a dozen business leaders at the Urban Chamber of Commerce. “People should have the dignity that if you go to work and you do work you’re proud of, you should be able to pay your rent and buy groceries. Somehow we have to find that balance that works for different businesses up and down the spectrum.”

Rosen on Wednesday heard from business leaders who said higher wages could lead to automation, higher housing costs or reduced work hours.

“I know it’s a good talking point for people to say, ‘Yes, we need to pay people more money,’” said Clifton Marshall, owner of Airport Concessionaires, which operates more than 30 stores at McCarran International Airport. “But I don’t really think people work through all the ramifications.”

After the 45-minute meeting, Marshall added that when wages get too high, employers look for other options — including replacing workers with machines and cutting their hours. He pointed to Seattle, saying employers slashed employee hours after raising the pay floor. Rosen said she understands the plight of small businesses, but the “difficult discussion” of raising wages must happen.

“We have to find a way that businesses can succeed and give working people dignity,” Rosen told Marshall.

Rosen signed on to the Raise the Wage Act, which was introduced in May 2017, to lift the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t been raised in nearly a decade. Nevada’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for jobs with health benefits and $8.25 hourly for jobs without.

“Congresswoman Rosen has consistently supported the fight towards a $15 an hour federal minimum wage, and she wants to work with small businesses to figure out how we can move forward and ensure hardworking Nevadans can earn enough to make ends meet,” campaign spokesman Stewart Boss said in a statement.

Heller this month said he supports abolishing the federal minimum wage and letting states set their rates.

As part of her Senate campaign, Rosen has hosted panel discussion on veterans issues, health care and minimum wage. Rosen said she takes the information back to Washington and uses it to form legislation.

Ken Evans, president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, said many entrepreneurs need help with equity to start a business. Rosen said there are federal grants that can help and encouraged him to look into hiring a grant expert.

Bill Marion, a chamber board member who owns a public relations firm, told Rosen that he is most concerned about the incivility in politics and an extreme judiciary.

Rosen said she will stand up against hate.

“When they call me whatever names they call me, I can use a little bit of humor,” she said. “I tell people we can disagree but not be disrespectful. … This isn’t who we are.”

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