"My job often is to just complete the great work done by members of the General Assembly," said Governor John Carney Monday. "And that's the case today."
On July 19, 2021, Carney signed into law Senate Bill 15, which establishes a gradual increase in the First State's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
"People criticize often 'The Delaware Way,'" Carney said during the signing. "For me, The Delaware Way is simply people working together to get things done for the people that we work for."
The increases don't begin to take effect until January 1, 2022, and slowly increase the hourly wage over the next four years as such:
- not less than $10.50 by Jan. 1, 2022.
- not less than $11.75 by Jan. 1, 2023
- not less than $13.25 by Jan. 1, 2024
- not less than $15 by Jan. 1, 2025
The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Jack Walsh, said it's a necessity in Delaware, where 34,800 people currently making the bare minimum wage and 53,200 making less than $10 hourly.
"The legislation boils down to one core principle: someone who puts in a hard day's work deserves to earn enough to keep a roof over their head and food on the table," he said. "It's really quite easy. The principles this country was founded upon" equality, fairness, and taking care of each other."
Walsh said the talking point that the increase will costs jobs is "simply not true," and said in almost every instance where an increase has taken place, unemployment has fallen or remained flat, while labor force participation and the GDP has increased or remained flat.
"The reason is simple: putting more money in people's pockets means more bills getting paid, and more money going into cash registers, which results in a better economy for all of us," Walsh said. "The bill is not a question of pro-business or anti-business. It's a simple question of whether you believe in lifting people out of poverty or not."
The bill did have the support of small businesses across Delaware, some of whom were on hand Monday for the signing.
"When you pay higher wages, and staff feel valued and aren’t scrambling financially, they return that to you in productivity and better customer service," said Wilmington's The Comic Book Shop owner Sarah Titus. "I look forward to minimum wage increases putting more money in people’s pockets so they can spend more at local businesses.”
And right now is more important than ever to make sure employees are financially secure.
"As we recover from the pandemic, a decent minimum wage has never been more important," said Ryan Peters, owner of RISE Fitness + Adventure in Rehoboth Beach. "People need jobs that pay enough to live on. Businesses need customers who can afford what we’re offering. Raising Delaware's minimum wage will strengthen our state’s workforce and businesses."
It's also a way to help the next generation now, Carney said, pointing out kids who need additional resources to get a better footing will see their family's ability to provide that increase.
"We have so much work to do in that respect, our work around education," Carney said. "We continue to work on that to make sure, again, every child in our state has an opportunity--and part of that is to make sure that their parents are paid adequately, so that they can raise them and give them the things that they need."