Union members and legislators are backing an effort to raise Delaware's minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In a press conference March 8, Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton, said raising the minimum wage is about giving workers a living wage.
“Somebody who puts in a full day of work should be able to put a roof over their heads,” he said. “They deserve our help in lifting them out of poverty.”
Senate Bill 15, introduced March 9, is Walsh's second attempt to raise the state's minimum wage. His Senate Bill 105 introduced in 2019 never made it out of the Senate Finance Committee before dying at the end of the 2020 legislative session.
The State of Delaware, Delaware's largest employer, has some positions that pay the $9.25 minimum, Walsh said, although Gov. John Carney said the state is committed to raising wages to at least $15 per hour for all state workers. Other large employers such as Amazon, Walmart and Target already pay employees at least $15.
The bill proposes to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
Lewes businesswoman Courtney Sunborn – the sole business owner in attendance at the press conference – started her cleaning business, Ecolistic Cleaning, 18 years ago and expanded to Delaware in 2007. When she began operations, she paid her employees $12 an hour; today she starts them at $14.50.
Sunborn said she knows other cleaning companies pay minimum wage or close to it, and legislation is needed to bring up wages. With a gradual yearly increase, she said, businesses would have time to acclimate to the new minimum wage.
“I think businesses that haven't made the switch don't even realize that there are so many benefits,” she said. “For me, I'm paying more, but they are more committed to the job.”
Sunborn said she has less turnover, which saves her money on training employees, and satisfied customers give word-of-mouth references that save her on marketing expenses.
She said she still makes a profit despite paying her employees more.
“Part of doing business is figuring out how to make all the numbers work,” she said. “My business model is a testimonial that it can work. My clients stick with us because I have such reliable staff who are happy to do their jobs.”
SB 51 awaits action in the Senate Labor Committee.