Demonstrators rally for $15-an-hour minimum wage as lawmakers return to Dover

They work in restaurants, barber shops, salons, repair shops, and in the service industry.

Many of them are having trouble making ends meet as they earn Delaware's minimum wage of $9.25 an hour.

On the steps of Legislative Hall Tuesday, January 14, 2020, as members of the House and Senate met for the first time in the new year, union leaders and unionized workers rallied in support of a $15 minimum wage by 2024.

They contended that Delaware has some catching up to do.

"Families can't survive on the minimum wage of $9.25 an hour," Service Employees International Union 32BJ Area Director Daisy Cruz said. The union representatives cited studies which indicate that about 30 percent of Wilmington residents earn poverty-level wages.

"It hurts me as a man when you can't provide for your family the way you want to," Clarence Berry said. He is employed as a building cleaner in Wilmington.

Businesses typically oppose significant increases in the minimum wage, but backers of $15-an-hour claimed to have support in the Delaware small business community.

"We need to remember that workers are also customers. Raising the minimum wage puts more money in the paychecks of people who most need to spend it, which increases sales at businesses across Delaware," Business for a Fair Minimum Wage Vice President Alissa Barron-Menza said. The group claims to be a national network of business owners and executives.

In a statement, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce President Michael Quaranta said the chamber supports aggressive retraining efforts led by the governor and the Department of Labor, but said that a $15-per-hour minimum wage "risks accelerating the time businesses wipe out low-skill jobs in favor of technology and AI, exacerbates youth unemployment and results in wage escalation at other levels of a company when entry level employees now make a similar wage compared to long-term, loyal employees."

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.