Many Dry Cleaners Raising Wages This Year: Survey

Bruce Beggs |

Greater pressure from competitive hiring than push for higher minimum wage

CHICAGO — It seems the push for a higher federal minimum wage may not have much effect on the majority of dry cleaners who took this month’s American Drycleaner Your Views survey. Why? Because more than two-thirds of them already pay their employees more than the minimum.

Dry cleaners who responded to the unscientific survey employ, on average, 32.9 people (including both part-time and full-time) across all of their store/plant locations. The lowest total reported was three, and the highest was 175.

Among the responding cleaners, 68.8% do not pay any of their employees the minimum wage. Roughly 19% of respondents pay less than 10% of their workforce minimum wage. Equal shares of 6.3% pay minimum wage to “more than 10% but less than 50%” and to “more than 50%” of their workforce.

Roughly 85% of respondents have raised wages this year, or plan to do so before the year ends.

Among them, 52.1% say it’s by 1-5%, 27.1% say it’s by 6-10%, and 6.3% say it’s by more than 10%.

Which of these puts more pressure on your wage decisions: the push for a higher minimum wage, or competitive hiring by other dry cleaners or businesses in your area?

For the majority of respondents (46.8%), neither affects their wage decisions. Roughly 31.9% are pressured more by competitive hiring by other businesses. The remaining 21.3% of respondents say they feel the most pressure from the push for a higher minimum wage.

“The effective minimum wage in our area is about $8.50,” writes one respondent. “We start at $9 in stores, $10 in plants, and are struggling to staff. Big distribution warehouses are starting at $14 for unskilled labor.”

Have you lost any workers to competing dry cleaners or other businesses because the wages paid there were higher? Among our respondents, 81.3% say they have not. Roughly 13% say they have, and 6.3% are unsure.

When asked point blank if the federal minimum wage of $7.25 should be raised, one-third (33.3%) of respondents said yes and the remainder (66.7%) said no.

Some of the individual comments we received about the minimum wage:

  • “I don’t hire people who only do minimum-wage work. They get paid by how productive they are, not by some government mandate.”
  • “Increasing the minimum wage causes all my employees to want an increase. Although I already pay most of my workers at least $9 per hour, they will want an increase ...”
  • “Federal minimum wage means nothing to us on the Left Coast. Here, they no longer talk about a minimum wage. In California, the new saying is a “livable wage,” which cities such as San Francisco and LA have already set at $15 per hour.”
  • “One of the greatest challenges we face in the cleaning business is from competitors that run their business ‘off the books.’”
  • “If you can’t pay someone more than $7.25 an hour, you have a seriously flawed business model.”

The Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment and should not be considered scientific. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Subscribers to American Drycleaner e-mails are invited each month to take a brief industry survey they can complete anonymously. The entire trade audience is encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define owner/operator opinions and industry trends.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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