By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9
A raise in pay in now offered for many of the state's -- and the nation's -- lowest paid workers. The second of three consecutive increases in the federal minimum wage took effect Thursday.
For wait-staff at restaurants, and for others who work for the minimum wage, hourly pay jumped 70 cents from $5.85 to $6.55. It will go up another 70 cents one year from Thursday to $7.25.
Angelica Dunbar, Iveth Trujillo and Amaya Barron all say 70 cents will make a difference.
"Yes, it's a huge raise for someone like me and others that work here along with me," Dunbar said.
"Cause, like, my house is half an hour from here, so I have to put more gas and it's been tougher," Trujillo said.
"It will help me a lot because I have to pay bills, I have to pay for my gas, I have to pay for my books," Barron said.
Federal law says certain employees aren't eligible for minimum wage; people who deliver newspapers, who work on fishing boats or at seasonal amusement parks, even full-time students. Still, labor officials say many more are eligible.
"As a society, I think, you have a lot of occupations that are going to be impacted," Ray Andrews with the Oklahoma Department of Labor said. "You have a lot, like I say, laborers, just good folks that are working for a living to survive."
Business experts said, however, hiking the minimum wage is a double-edged sword -- it may help some workers, but only at the expense of others.
"In any business you only have so many dollars for labor, and if your pot of labor is $100 and all of a sudden it's going to cost you $10 or $20 more for labor costs, well, then someone's just not going to work as many hours, or somebody's going to get laid off," Vince Orza with the Oklahoma City University School of Business said.
The increase is the second of three 70 cent increases in the minimum wage mandated by Congress. Last July 24 it went from $5.15 to $5.85 to being $6.55 now. Next July 24 it will go up to $7.25.