There's a new push to more than double the current minimum wage in North Carolina to $15 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009.
On Wednesday, lawmakers and advocacy groups met at the legislature to lobby for an agenda that includes a minimum wage increase, and paid leave for hourly workers. Senator Graig Meyer a sponsor of SB 440, which would increase the minimum wage to the $15 an hour mark. He says lawmakers need to start paying closer attention to the needs of working North Carolinians.
"I think this is the single biggest issue that the General Assembly is ignoring, is paid leave and the basic rate of pay for working people," said Meyer, a Democrat who represents parts of Orange and Person counties.
One advocate present on Wednesday was working mother Blanca Borceguin, who described discovering that she would not receive paid maternity leave from her employer just weeks before she gave birth.
"I quickly exhausted my savings. I resorted to food pantries, and I learned that food pantries don't offer decent meals," said Borceguin.
But small business owners in the Triangle are warning caution about the unintended consequences that more than doubling the minimum wage would have.
Michael Thor, one of the owners of Whiskey Kitchen in downtown Raleigh, said while they pay their employees above the minimum salary, many other businesses -- especially in more rural areas -- might suffer.
"If someone is basing their business on the minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, it's gonna hurt them," said Thor. "It's doubles their labor, and that's not an easy thing for any company."
Thor believes it could force some of those businesses to slash jobs and increase prices. But he noted that the conversation at large needs to include more context amid sharp rises in costs of living.
"7.25 an hour is 15 thousand dollars a year, 15 dollars an hour is 30 thousand and some change a year," he said. "Still not enough to afford a place in Raleigh."