Governor Bill Haslam said this week that raising Tennessee’s minimum wage would be a non-starter in the legislature. But the U.S. Secretary of Labor believes a majority of Tennesseans would welcome such a pay hike.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez was in Nashville – in part – to beat the drum on raising the minimum wage. The Obama Administration has failed to get congress to go along with increasing the minimum hourly pay from $7.25 to $10.10. But Perez points to four red states – Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota – that voted this month to raise their minimum wages.
“The voters consistently speak with a loud voice because everybody has a neighbor or a family member of someone they know that makes the minimum wage,” he said before a roundtable with Nashville business owners. “They know you can’t make ends meet on a minimum wage.”
Asked if he would support upping Tennessee’s baseline pay, Governor Haslam suggested the Republican-led legislature wouldn’t go for it. As for his own opinion, he says he’d want to see the data.
“Let’s look at minimum wage jobs and who they are and will raising that actually help them or cause some of those minimum wage jobs to go away,” Haslam said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 117,000 Tennesseans make the minimum wage or less. Only a couple of states have a higher percentage of their workforce taking home just $7.25 an hour. Tennessee is also one of the few states, mostly in the South, without its own minimum wage.