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Small businesses back minimum-wage initiative on Nebraska ballot

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Eric Galatas

(Nebraska News Connection) Nearly 300 Nebraska business owners and executives across the state have gone on record in support of ballot Initiative 433, which would gradually raise Nebraska's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026.

Dave Titterington, owner of the Wild Bird Habitat Stores in Lincoln and Omaha, said it is tough enough to find employees in the current marketplace, and even harder if all you can offer is $9 an hour.

"When you got child care, you got food to put on the table, you got increased fuel costs for home heating and automobile, how can anybody make it on the minimum wage?" Titterington asked.

Critics of Initiative 433 claim the minimum wage was never meant to be a "living wage" but an "entry level" wage for young people or first-time workers. Others warn small businesses operating on thin profit margins would pass increased labor costs along to consumers.

Steph Terry, director of operations for Morrow Collision Center in Lincoln, said workers are also customers, and raising Nebraska's minimum wage will be good for business. When workers are paid more, they can spend more at local businesses.

She added 75 percent of minimum-wage workers are age 20 and over, so it's not like they don't have bills to pay.

"Any individual deserves to have the ability to care for themselves and care for their families," Terry contended. "I think raising the minimum wage in Nebraska is the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, for the people of our state."

Titterington noted low pay typically means higher turnover when workers look elsewhere to make ends meet, and higher training costs for businesses. Titterington believes small businesses ought to move employees out of the expense column and into the investment column, because they are the first people customers meet when they come in the door.

"We consider our employees an investment, just like our radio advertising," Titterington explained. "If you can't pay your employees a living wage, and still run a business, maybe you need to be in another profession."