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Bill to Raise Minimum Wage in Alaska Becomes Law


Bill to Raise Minimum Wage in Alaska Becomes Law
Struggling Workers Will Receive a Raise Starting July 24

(JUNEAU) - Governor Sarah Palin has signed into law Senate Bill 1, which will increase Alaska's minimum wage for the first time in more than six years.

"Alaska's lowest paid workers have gone far too long without a raise," said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), a prime sponsor of SB 1. "Working for the minimum wage shouldn't mean working for a minimum quality of life, especially in these hard economic times."

Now that the bill is law, Alaska's minimum wage will increase from $7.15/hour to $7.25/ hour on July 24 and then to 50 cents above the federal minimum wage (or $7.75/hour) on January 1, 2010. Alaska's minimum wage was last raised in January 2003. Had it kept pace with inflation, it would be about $8.46 today.

"Alaska's cost of living is one of the highest in the nation," said Senator Wielechowski. "Despite this, 39 states have a higher minimum wage than Alaska, including California, Oregon, and Washington. For a state with Alaska's resources, this is unconscionable."

More than 8,000 Alaskans earn less than $7.75/hour and would benefit from this legislation.

Senator Wielechowski noted that the bill was signed behind closed doors and, contrary to custom, the legislators and civic leaders who worked for years to craft this important piece of legislation were not notified by the Governor's office that the bill was to be signed into law yesterday. Nor were they invited to participate in a signing ceremony, as is the norm with significant pieces of legislation.

SB 1 passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support; the Senate approved it by a vote of 17 to 2, and the House by a vote of 35 to 5.

Senator Wielechowski said that workers who earn the current Alaska minimum wage make roughly $14,872 a year, little more than the federal poverty level for Alaska, which is $13,530. Nationally, 25% of those workers are parents, and many are the sole wage earners in their households.

Economic studies have found that modest increases in the minimum wage do not lead to job loss, but do result in greater productivity, lower recruiting and training costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale.

Other prime sponsors of SB 1 are Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), Senator Joe Thomas (D-Fairbanks), Senator Bettye Davis (D- Anchorage) and Senator Hollis French (D-Anchorage).

For more information, contact Senator Wielechowski or Michelle Sydeman at 465-6881.

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