Tonight the Urban County Council will take the first of the two votes required to adopt an ordinance to raise wages in Fayette County from the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour over three years.
We support raising the minimum wage but won't repeat here the case for the effect this increase — the first bump would be to $8.20 an hour on July 1 — would have on the lives of some workers. Others will explain that at the meeting.
However, a couple of objections likely to come up deserve further examination.
The most compelling is that jobs will disappear as employers lay off workers and/or move to other counties because of the higher wages.
But this runs afoul of the idea of efficient businesses operating in an efficient marketplace.
Successful businesses don't keep extra workers around just because they're cheap; they hire and retain employees because they need a job done. That won't change. Research shows that in some cases higher minimum wages have reduced turnover, lowering costs for the employers.
Most minimum-wage workers are in low-end service sector jobs: restaurant, retail, hotel and motel workers; janitors; some construction work.
These businesses won't move away from their client bases to save a few dollars on wages. Land prices and rents are often higher in densely populated, high-traffic areas because that's where people go to shop, eat, conduct business, etc.
There's also concern expressed that when wages rise some workers will become ineligible for the government assistance they receive and so might be worse off or realize no gain.
"Isn't that what we want?" Jesus Gonzalez, a restaurant server who has spoken out in favor of the higher minimum wage, asked the council last week. "Don't we want people to make enough to survive without government assistance?"
This is a legitimate concern, one that local social services agencies might need to address on a case-by-case basis. But concern that some might lose benefits because of higher wages is not a valid reason to relegate thousands of workers to dependency.
It is also not a good reason to continue to subsidize businesses that pay such low wages their workers depend on taxpayer support to survive.
For those who can't attend the council meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall, it will be shown on GTV3 and streamed at Lfucg.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=12.