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Minimum wage debate splits Borderland

By Matthew Smith, Good Morning El Paso Weekend Anchor / Reporter
Published On: Dec 06 2013 09:24:50 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 07:46:07 PM CST

ABC-7s Matthew Smith reports.

EL PASO, Texas -

In downtown El Paso, the H&H car wash and coffee shop sits on the corner of Yandell and Ochoa. It’s been in the Haddad family for more than 50 years. It's different than most coffee shops nearby -- it’s locally-owned and operated, and it’s always been that way.

“The government is doing everything it can to kill small businesses,” said Maynard Haddad, the owner of H&H.

Haddad drew laughs when he last raised his prices for food and car washes. The price increase wasn’t the cause of the laughs, it was the sign he put up explaining the move. It read “Blame Congress.” Now faded, Haddad says he’ll rewrite it again if the minimum wage jumps. It’s the reason he raised prices last time, and it’s the reason he’s considering writing it again.

Across the country, the move to raise the minimum wage has fired back up. Right now, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. This week, President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages. The number that has been floating around is $10.10 an hour, and that number is linked to a bill penned by a Democrat senator from Iowa.

“We wouldn’t go down without a fight, we’d give it a try,” said Haddad. “We’re not quitters.”

While he wouldn’t quit, Haddad said he doesn’t think his business would fare well -- or possibly survive at all. The rise in wages would mean a hike of roughly 40 percent in what he pays his 10-12 workers a day. It equates to thousands of dollars per week, meaning the prices would go up. Haddad said a car wash would likely go up to $18.  Asked if a car wash is worth that much, he gruffly responded, “To me? Hell no.”

Haddad isn’t the only one in this fight though. People all across the country have organized rallies and protests to ask for higher wages. In Las Cruces, more than 15 people gathered outside the McDonald’s on Lohman Avenue. Organizers told the ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom that they needed more money to survive, while clapping and passing out information to passerby they held signs saying, “Low pay is slowing down our economy.”

The president agrees, telling reporters on Wednesday that raising wages and correcting economic inequalities were key priorities during his second term. The president said that children are growing up in a world where it is difficult to overcome poverty.

“That should offend us all,” he said. “We are a better country than this.”

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