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Minimum Wage Balancing Act

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Some people in the corridor are looking to make sure that local politicians know that they want the minimum wage increased by nearly $3 by the end of the week.

Experts say the kind of change in Iowa Senator Tom Harkins bill might benefit some, but could also negatively affect many others. Hes looking to raise the Federal Minimum Wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Some say that would be just a small start in helping people provide for their families.

It wasnt long ago that Mazahir Salih worked a schedule that would wear down even the hardest of workers.

"My first job was working at McDonald's, said Salih. Not one McDonald's, but two McDonald's."

She says many days, she would work from dawn until dusk between the two stores for what the minimum wage was back then: $5.25 an hour.

"That was the only way I could support my family, said Salih.

That was before she had kids of her own. After 17 years, she was finally able to become a substitute teacher, allowing her to support her children. But she says a higher minimum wage would help a lot of people care for their families a lot better and sooner.

James Knox sees it differently.

Hes working on starting a string of drive-through coffee shops, so hell need a lot of minimum wage workers.

"Entry-level positions, said Knox. Not a high skill-set that someone can build upon.

He says that a starting wage doesnt have to last forever. When his business looks to open new shops, he says hell look to people who stand out on his existing staff to manage them, helping his employees turn a minimum wage job into something much more.

"If I have a good employee, I'm certainly going to pay them what they're worth, said Knox.

Bigger companies like McDonalds or Walmart might be able to absorb a higher minimum wage, but its businesses like James that economists say would feel the weight of that increase.

"They're probably going to want to cut hours because they're probably at very close to running as efficiently as they can, said University of Iowas Tippie College of Business Lecturer Stacey Brook.

Brook says those businesses would be the ones causing unemployment or underemployment, and passing those higher costs along to the consumer.

The Senates vote is expected as early as next week. If it passes, then it will head to the House of Representatives.

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