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SPEAKERS URGE BOTTOM-WAGE HIKE
BOOST TO $3.35 IS ONLY A STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION, TASK FORCE IS TOLD

SHARE SPEAKERS URGE BOTTOM-WAGE HIKE
BOOST TO $3.35 IS ONLY A STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION, TASK FORCE IS TOLD

Raise the minimum wage.

That was the suggestion of all those testifying before the Labor Code Recodification Task Force, which recently drafted a bill that would raise the state minimum wage to $3.35 per hour, the same level as the federal minimum wage.Arguing that people making the federal minimum wage of $3.35 per hour are still living below the poverty level, some people believe Utah's minimum wage should exceed the federal standard to show the rest of the nation that Utah workers are appreciated.

The task force has been meeting for several months attempting to change the labor code and remove all inferences of a minimum wage for women and minors, with no mention of how men should be treated. Court cases have said that is discriminatory and the task force has been attempting to erase the discrimination.

Labor and management members of the task force finally got together and decided to recommend to the Legislature the state's minimum wage for all private and public employees be $3.35 per hour. During the course of their deliberations, task force members learned their action would affect only 8,710 Utah workers, the remainder being covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

During the Thursday hearing, Monica Jenks, who works with the AFL-CIO's Utah Opportunity Network Program, said the present $2.70 per hour minimum wage gives a person about $440 per month while a family of four needs $770 for necessities, so raising the minimum wage is a step in the right direction.

It was a bill introduced earlier this year by Sen. Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake, that resulted in creation of the task force. She said that when her bill passed she had little hope anything beneficial could be accomplished because the task force had no budget.

She praised the task force and the State Industrial Commission staff for their work but was unhappy that minors aren't included in the minimum wage bill. Minimum pay and work standards for minors are included in a separate bill drafted by the task force.

Farley said she gets plenty of calls from parents of minors who feel their children have been taken advantage of by employers. "The $3.35 per hour is below the poverty level, so don't feel too good about yourselves," she said.

Ron Morgan, executive vice president of the Utah Restaurant Association, said he supports raising the state minimum wage but would like to see it implemented in rural areas in phases so restaurant owners can absorb the increase.

He also believes that provisions in the proposed law allowing commission employees to inspect records when investigating complaints about minimum wage or employment of minors should be changed. "The language gives the commission more authority to walk into a business than the police have," he said.

Merrill Cook, a businessman and chairman of the Independent Party in Utah, favors the minimum wage increase but said not enough is being done for the handicapped and those learning a job.

Others supporting the proposal to raise the minimum wage were Frank Granato, president of Granato Importing Co.; June Morris, president of Morris/Ask Mr. Foster Travel and June Morris School of Travel; Steven Erick-son of Utah Issues; Rep. Janet Rose, D-Salt Lake; and Ruth Bauman, director of the U.S. Labor Department's Wage Hour Division.