Providence has recently been praised as one of the best cultural hubs in the United States, and one of the best mid-sized cities across the nation. This praise almost seems counter-intuitive, as Rhode Island consistently ranks last or in the bottom-five for many other categories by which states are ranked. Rhode Island has an unfriendly business climate as it is, and raising the minimum wage in Providence would only weaken our position to attract businesses, the ordinance would hurt the businesses we already have, and the ordinance would not help the group the advocates are trying to help.
There is no question that every citizen deserves to be able to earn enough of a living to sustain themselves or their family, but raising the minimum wage is not an effective way of helping the poor, creating jobs, or making Rhode Island more business friendly. When examining minimum wage statistics, according to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, the majority of minimum wage workers are between the age of 16 and 24, with a majority of that group living in households with an average income of $53,000 per year. As a result, a minimum wage increase would not be an effective way of helping those living in poverty.
Furthermore, when the minimum wage is increased, the costs to businesses go up because they have to pay more to their employees. Rising costs leave a business with four options. Businesses can fire people to make up for the added costs, they can stop hiring new people, they can raise the costs of their services or product, or they can simply take the hit financially and invest less in their business. None of these options will help Providence in the long run, and none of these options make our economic climate friendly to businesses looking to move into New England.
The bottom line is that Providence can’t afford to raise its cost of doing business by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Even adjusted for inflation, the United States minimum wage of $7.25 would only raise to $10.75. There are better ways to tackle the problem of poverty, and better ways of helping those trying to raise a family. Make Rhode Island business friendly and better paying jobs will come – raise the wage and Providence will never reach its potential in the region.
Luis Vargas is an Independent Candidate for State Representative in Providence, District 12, Volunteer Director of Strategic Initiatives for the RIGOP, a member of Iglesia Bautista Hispana El Calvario (a church in the heart of Providence) and a Rhode Island resident for over 19 years.