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Raising the minimum wage is a terrible idea, they say. Stores will just raise their prices or fire staff.

Maybe not.

Meet the Oster Stainless Steel Toaster Oven, Target Stores Part #072-09-0170:
 photo ToasterOven.jpg

Santa Fe has the highest minimum wage in the country. Boise has the federal minimum wage, and Idaho has the highest proportion of minimum wage workers in the country.

This toaster oven costs the same - $49.99 - in both cities. And yes, I called both stores to confirm that the price they are selling it at is the same as the price that Target lists online.

Santa Fe had a Walmart store. When it raised its minimum wage to the highest in the nation, the company retaliated by...opening a second Walmart store, employing 300 more people.

That's two Walmart's in a town of 70,000, in addition to a Target, a K-Mart, a Kohls, a Sears, a JC Penny, as well as a Sam's Club - because, you know, the two Walmarts aren't enough.

The only thing we don't have is a Costco. So the the local Chamber of Commerce - which remains implacably opposed to the living wage ordinance, despite having no data to support their complaints - seized on that fact. They went around claiming that Costco wasn't coming to Santa Fe because of our minimum wage.

Umm, small problem:

John Matthews, vice president of human resources for Costco in Washington state, said the company’s entry-level people earn at least $11 an hour, so such local wage levels are generally not a big factor.
Did I mention that Santa Fe has a population of 70,000 and is already stuffed to the gills with retail stores?  As feeble as this smear was, the Chamber is now trying an even worse one: the minimum wage is so high that it is encouraging kids to drop out of school!  Just as ridiculous as their last ploy, and equally unsupported by any actual data.

Before Santa Fe’s living wage ordinance took effect in 2004, there were many dire predictions of higher prices, job losses and companies closing or moving elsewhere.

And yet, the reality is we have the same chain stores and chain restaurants as the rest of the nation, selling exactly the same things at exactly the same prices.

And Santa Fe has the lowest unemployment rate in New Mexico: 5.1 percent in December, compared to 6.4% for the state of New Mexico as a whole and 7.8% for the nation.

I'll say it again: Santa Fe has a population of 70,000. Albuquerque, with a population of half a million is an hour down the road. There is no reason for the stores I mentioned earlier to be here if they are being hampered by a floor of $10.50/hour.

11:34 AM PT: UPDATE:

It has been proposed in the comments that Santa Fe is a weird place that defies normal rules because people bring their money with them when they move there.

Here's the thing: these are national chains.  As far as I know, they close under-performing stores.  And, as far as I know, the prices in Santa Fe are generally the same as what they charge elsewhere.* And these are not stores that the tourists frequent or the celebs patronize. But yet the stores stay open, despite our minimum wage being 50% higher than it is in Boise.

So I don't think that this is a result that is unique to Santa Fe, other than our city council having the gumption to enact the living wage ordinence, despite the Chamber telling them it would crater the local economy.

*Maybe we should have a DK project: someone propose a basket of goods from some national chains, and those of us living in different minimum wage zones could walk through stores and price check and report back, thus creating a credible picture of the impact. Interested??

Originally posted to SantaFeMarie on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:34 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos Economics.

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