The arguments against raising the minimum wage — at the local, state or national level — weaken each time another major employer takes the step voluntarily.
A big blow fell Monday when Gov. Steve Beshear signed an order to raise the wages of about 800 executive branch employees July 1. The minimum will rise from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
"Any reasonable review of unbiased research shows that raising the wage is a smart business decision," Beshear said.
Members of the Urban County Council's Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee should keep this in mind when, on June 23, they consider legislation to raise the minimum wage in Fayette County.
Seattle, Louisville, Los Angeles, Walmart, the University of Kentucky, Kentucky state government, fill-in-the-blank can do it without destroying the economy or their business model, so why can't we?
It's a hard question to answer because the truth is that raising the minimum wage will not destroy our local economy or any business that's not already on the ropes.
What it might destroy, or at least lessen, is the desperation of thousands who work hard and long but don't make enough money to pay for basic necessities, much less to get ahead.
It could also do some damage to the subsidies taxpayers provide low-wage employers in the form of safety-net programs, such as food stamps and Medicaid.
As Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management, wrote recently, "right now, the wealth transfer goes in the wrong direction: from taxpayers to the owners of fast-food outlets. In effect, the public helps restaurants and other lower-wage employers save on labor costs."
Better, Ritholtz figures, to transfer wealth from the owners to their workers in the form of higher wages.
Council members must keep in mind that they have put $3 million in the budget for the upcoming year to help local non-profits provide essential services, and agencies clamoring for more.
That's in addition to the significant financial commitments the urban county government has made to reduce homelessness, make housing more affordable and employ disadvantaged youth during the summer.
Perhaps it would be more efficient to raise the minimum wage so workers need less assistance and contribute more to the city coffers in payroll taxes.
We agree with those who say it would be better to have a minimum wage increase at the national or state level. It's clear that the local proposal — raising from the current federal minimum of $7.25 to $8.20 in the first year, $9.15 in the second, $10.10 the third year and tied to the consumer price index after that — is not a cure for poverty in Fayette County.
But it would be an important signal that our community values workers more than businesses that count on public subsidies — rather than fair wages — to keep their workers healthy, fed and housed.