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.