Employees, business owners react to January's minimum wage increase

Despite Congress’ inaction, minimum wage fight still looms
Posted at 5:57 AM, Dec 03, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Inside CLTRE. Vegan Joint, Aaron Jones knows his way around the stovetop and the rest of the kitchen for that matter.

He's one of the cafe's chefs and a small business owner himself. With that being said, he knows the importance of a paycheck.

"People do need to get paid more with the physical toll, with the mental toll and just the cost of living," he said.

In January, the minimum wage in Virginia will bump from $9.50 an hour to $11 an hour. By 2026 it will be $15 an hour.

"We just have to know the laws and the ways that we can accommodate our employees because we do want to pay our employees that much," said Luvenia Hankins, Owner of CLTRE VGN JNT.

Luvenia "Luv" Hankins owns CLTRE. She said in the past she's adjusted schedules and paychecks.

"You just have to get innovative and you have to think about what's best for your business [and] the employees because resisting it is only going to make it worse, in my opinion," said Hankins. "It's a lot of trial and error to make sure that the business doesn't get taken advantage of and that the employees feel that they are, their needs are being met."

She also supplements her employees income by letting them promote their business. Hankins allows them to sell products at the front of the cafe near the register. The money generated will go directly to the employee and their small business.

"We offer those other incentives and other platforms for them to make other streams of income since they're looking to build businesses anyway," she said.

While this model is unique, the local organization Retail Alliance surveyed business owners for their take on the minimum wage increases. The responses are as followed:

  • 37% would increase product/service prices
  • 28% would adapt wages
  • 14% would reduce staff hours
  • 13% would eat it on margin (absorb it)
  • 10% would reduce staff
  • 8% would reduce business hours
  • 3% would introduce automation to save on labor costs
  • 36% would face no impact (many of these respondents had no staff)

The Retail Alliance reported that business owners who support minimum wage increases believe buying power will improve and it will create additional incentives for people to work and stay in school.

Those not in support of the pay bumps believe it could hurt business owners and increase joblessness due to businesses scaling back hours/positions and eliminating entry-level positions.

While there are pros and cons for both employers and employees, Jones said it's the leadership and opportunity to grow that keeps him coming back to CLTRE. The tips from customers help too.

"Sometimes just with the service we provide, we can walk away with like a good bit of pocket change once paycheck day comes," he said.

Hankins looks forward to the future and growing her employees and business.

"We want to give our employees a living, working wage," she said.