Las Vegas Sun

November 14, 2018

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Politics:

How Heller, Rosen differ on minimum wage debate

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Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., talk before a Memorial Day ceremony in Boulder City, Monday, May 28, 2018. They will now battle for Heller’s Senate seat in the general election.

A Democratic push to raise the minimum wage has become an issue in a close race for a U.S. Senate seat in Nevada, as Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen met with union members and workers Tuesday calling for an increase to $15 an hour.

Rosen was responding to comments last week by Republican incumbent Dean Heller, who said at an event that he'd like to do away with the federal minimum wage and let states decide whether to have one.

"We're fighting for dignity and decency for everyone in our community," Rosen said, adding that a higher wage is vital for helping raise people out of poverty, particularly women and people of color.

Nevada's minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour for employees who receive health care through their employer, and $8.25 per hour for those who don't.

Last year, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill from the Democratic-controlled Legislature that would have raised Nevada's wage to $11 an hour for employees with health insurance and $12 an hour for those without it.

Rosen is one of more than 170 sponsors of stalled legislation in Congress that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour over seven years.

The legislation has come as liberal candidates around the country have been calling in recent years for a $15 minimum wage, something left-leaning states and cities have started discussing and adopting.

Virginia Mills, president of the Education Support Employees Association, which represents 11,000 Clark County school district workers in cafeterias, libraries, maintenance and other support roles, was among the people who spoke Tuesday with Rosen at the SEIU offices in Las Vegas.

Mills said her workers are the "backbone" of the school system and currently start jobs at a $10 an hour after winning an increase several years ago from a baseline of $7. Mills estimated that as many as 6,300 of the workers she represents have a second job to make ends meet, some at retail stores or in the restaurant industry.

"By increasing the minimum wage, it would empower them to not be ashamed to be a bus driver, to be an office worker and things like that," Mills said.

If the minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour, she estimated that 20 percent of those workers would no longer need to hold a second job.

Asked at a Latino Chamber of Commerce event last week about the $15 minimum wage push, Heller said he didn't think there should be a national minimum wage because there's a big difference between states like New Jersey and Nevada.

He said states should decide if they want a minimum wage and what that rate should be. The senator said he'd leave it to the governor and Legislature to make that decision for Nevada.

Heller's campaign did not have a comment about where Nevada's rate should be set.