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Employers: Wage hikes boost morale, applicants

While politicians debate the minimum wage, businesses are already moving to bump up pay for their lowest-paid workers, including many in Central Pennsylvania.

Local companies hear the political noise and read the proposals to raise the state and federal minimum wage above $7.25 per hour. They see how national and international employers are responding to worker rallies calling for higher wages, and what major metropolitan areas and other states are proposing or enacting for starting pay.

One of the recurring arguments is that wages have not kept up with the pace of inflation.

For employers, however, it’s a matter of keeping up with the competition.

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“We always want to be the employer of choice,” said John MacDonald, a spokesman for Giant Food Stores, which is part of Ahold USA’s Carlisle division, which also includes Martin’s Food Markets.

Retail push

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In the retail industry, where lower wages and part-time workers are abundant, questions about the minimum wage are a constant.

In April, Giant/Martin’s announced it was raising the starting associate wage to $9 per hour, beginning June 7.

That impacted about 10,000 part-time associates in the nearly 200-store chain, which has 33,000 employees overall.

Competitor Weis Markets announced a move to $9 per hour in May, a change that takes effect on Aug. 2 and affects 163 stores.

Both cited the need to remain competitive and said the move would not impact store prices. In the grocery business, sales margins are already tight.

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