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Skills, education best investment for state's workers
While fast-food workers nationwide are campaigning for $15 an hours, there's a more modest drive under way in Nebraska, a ballot issue to raise the state's minimum wage to $9.
Nebraskans for Better Wages released a study in support of the change, saying one out of six workers in the state would receive a raise as a result.
More than 64,300 children have a parent who would receive a raise at the new $9 rate according to the study, which claims it would also generate $73.9 million in new economic activity and create more than 400 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand.
We saw nothing in the group's news release to address the issue of jobs that could be cut back because of the higher rate, or eliminated as businesses continue replacing human employees with technology.
The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce produced statistics last week that could be used to make the argument that the state's labor shortage is making the minimum wage a moot point.
Roberta Pinkerton, executive director of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Nebraska program, said manufacturers are having trouble finding qualified workers in the state, thwarting expansion plans.
Nebraska's low unemployment rate, 3.4 percent in August for the state, 3.1 percent for Red Willow County, shows that most of the state's employable people already have jobs.
The state chamber pointed to the Nebraska Intern Program, which has connected 700 students at two- and four-year colleges with more than 370 Nebraska companies since it was started by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development in 2011.
Students in the program earn an average wage of $13 an hour, and about half of them end up taking full-time positions, which receive some wage reimbursement through the program.
A $9 minimum wage might make a small difference for some workers in the state, but the real solution lies in investing in the education and skills that make them more valuable workers.