Should Nashville have its own minimum wage? It’s a move made recently in neighboring states and nearby cities.
Most of the states without a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25 an hour are in the South, and Tennessee is one of them. There’s been little-to-no support for raising the mandated base pay at the state level, but there have been rumblings on the city level.
“Yes,” says at-large Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry. She’s the only one going out on the minimum wage limb. “I firmly believe that we should have a wage that reflects what it really requires to live here and that’s a living wage.”
Barry sponsored a push to require the city to pay a “living wage” to Metro employees, though the measure was largely symbolic.
According to a calculator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a living wage in Davidson County – for a single adult with no children – comes to $9.51 an hour.
Barry points to the state of Arkansas and the city of Louisville who have recently upped the minimum pay.
“Even in places where you think this wouldn’t pass, overwhelmingly, citizens and voters want people to have a living wage,” Barry says.
From there, candidates for mayor fall on a spectrum from semi-support to outright opposition.
Charter school founder Jeremy Kane says it’s worth considering.
“We’ve seen other places raise the minimum wage, and it hasn’t ruined the economy,” he says.
If Nashville were to raise the minimum wage, the Republican-dominated state legislature would likely try intervening. They have before. And last year, lawmakers shot down a $1 hike to the minimum wage in a matter of five minutes.
“Where my focus has been is not going to the legislature and banging my head on the wall for what is likely a losing argument,” says attorney Charles Robert Bone, who adds that he’d rather spend time recruiting better-paying jobs.
Businesswoman Linda Rebrovick seconds the focus on recruitment of high paying jobs, adding that she’s for letting businesses “do the right thing.”
Two candidates gave WPLN a straight-ahead “no.” And they represent two different sides of the political spectrum, though the mayor’s race is non-partisan.
Apartment complex developer Bill Freeman is a big Democratic fundraiser who previously has supported raising the federal minimum wage. However, he’s not in favor of acting locally.
“I really haven’t thought about that,” Freeman says when asked about raising the city’s minimum wage. “I don’t know that that’s a good idea.”
Former school board chairman David Fox considers himself “right of center” on fiscal issues and compares the job market to a ladder.
“When you cut the bottom rungs off the ladder, you’re forcing a significant number of people into long term unemployment,” Fox argues.
An economy that might have fewer minimum wage entry-level jobs, Fox says, is not an economy he has much confidence in.