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'It's hard to pay somebody that's not skilled': Omaha business owners mixed on possible minimum wage increase

Local employers have mixed reactions
Posted at 7:52 PM, Oct 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-14 20:52:31-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — If you're earning minimum wage, you could see more money in your pocket by 2026. A Nebraska ballot initiative would gradually raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by then.

While hundreds of business owners and executives support the measure, that's not the case for everyone.

Amelia Rosser owns Sheelytown Market, which is an Omaha plant nursery. She also cares for her employees the way she cares for the greenery.

"My business would only be right if I'm profitable and I'm paying people right and I'm taking care of my people," Rosser said.

When the business opened, she started paying her staff a starting wage of $15 an hour. It goes up, depending on the experience and time staff puts in. It's a measure that employee Holly Lukasiewicz is thankful for.

"Right off the bat, made me feel more valued for what I would be bringing to a work community," Lukesiewicz said.

But not all employers are prepared for an uptick in wages.

"I couldn't do that. We're not a chain restaurant. We're not like McDonald's — McDonald's can do a national chain, they can afford to do that, I can't afford to pay everyone 15-16 dollars an hour," Rib Shack Smoke House owner Jackie Robbins said.

Robbins says it's difficult for her to pay employees that kind of wage, especially if they lack experience. Right now, she's starting people off at $10 an hour.

"Paying somebody 15, that doesn't even know what collard greens are, doesn't know how to peel potatoes, not a skilled worker — it's hard to pay somebody that's not skilled," Robbins said.

Robbins' restaurant is short-staffed as it is. While she would like to offer more incentives to get help, it would also be hard for her to offer more training for unskilled workers.

"As a mom and pops, we don't have a lot of money like the big chains that can put it in their budgets to do big training and can afford waste; because you get a lot of waste with unskilled workers," Robbins said.

Both can agree: times are tough financially, but the sticking point is finding the solution.

"If we're all taking care of each other, we're all better off," Rosser said.

The initiative would push Nebraska's minimum wage up gradually, increasing it from $9 to $10.50 an hour by next year. Each year until 2026, wages would go up.

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