ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. – This year, 27 states have raised or will raise their minimum wage, but North Carolina isn’t one of them. The state’s minimum wage is $7.25 and it’s been the same for 14 years.
It matches the federal minimum wage put into law in 2009. But after all that time, many are asking whether it's still enough.
What You Need To Know
- This year, 27 states have raised or will raise their minimum wages but North Carolina’s is still $7.25
- North Carolina’s minimum wage hasn’t changed in 14 years and it matches the federal minimum wage put into law in 2009
- An Orange County nonprofit say this year’s living wage is either $16.60 or $15.10, depending on whether the employer provides health insurance
- The owners of Big Spoon Roasters in Hillsborough are certified by the nonprofit because they pay a living wage
The Orange County Living Wage is a volunteer driven nonprofit. The organization calculated that a living wage in the county this year is $16.60 an hour if an employer doesn’t provide health insurance. However, if an employer does provide health insurance, it’s $15.10. That’s more than double the federal and state minimum wage.
The owners of Big Spoon Roasters in Hillsborough have decided to pay their employees more than the minimum wage.
“Big Spoon Roasters was founded in 2011. We make fresh roasted nut butters and bars that are made with our nut butters. So that's everything from peanut butters and almond butters to cashew butters,” Megan Overbay, the co-founder of Big Spoon Roasters, said.
Big Spoon Roasters started as a home-based business.
“Eleven, 12 years later, and we are in 800 different retailers across the country. We are have a great e-commerce business. We sell on our own website as well as through Amazon,” Overbay said.
Megan Overbay's partner in business and life, as she says, is her husband Mark Overbay.
“When we started this business, we had this dream of starting the kind of business where we would always want to work ourselves,” Mark Overbay, co-founder of Big Spoon Roasters, said.
Part of that means taking care of all the people who help make Big Spoon Roasters what it is.
“Throughout sourcing ingredients, packaging, how you sell - you have to build into your model, taking care of the human beings that make your business possible. If that model does not make that possible, then it's a flawed model,” Mark Overbay said. “I think the state minimum wage hasn't been updated since 2009 and it's still at $7.25 an hour and that's way below a living standard for anyone in this community.”
For the Overbays, that involves increasing pay for their team members.
“The state living wage was set in 2009 at $7.25 an hour. Just a few years ago, for Big Spoon, we were paying starting people at $14 an hour. That went up to $15 an hour. And we're actually really excited in the next couple of weeks to raise again,” Megan Overbay said. "We have 16 team members right now. Two of them are part time and the others are almost full time. There are a couple people that work a reduced schedule, but anyone who works over 20 hours a week gets benefits with us. They get pro-rated benefits for whatever their regular schedule is."
Big Spoon Roasters is one of 268 businesses certified by The Orange County Living Wage nonprofit, an organization that calculates a living wage based on the year’s average Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
“We think everyone should be able to live comfortably and feel safe and that you shouldn't have to work multiple jobs to be able to just make ends meet,” Megan Overbay said.
The Overbays believe paying a living wage is part of a positive ripple effect that has allowed their business and community to thrive.
“If you don't worry about whether or not you're going to [have] food on the table and if you're going to have medical support, if you have a health issue or if you're not worried about having a roof over your head, then you're going to come to work and you're going to be happier and excited to be there and thankful. And those are the kinds of things you want people to do. You want them to be healthy and happy at work as well as at home,” Megan Overbay said.
For comparison, the wage calculated by The Orange County Living Wage is higher than any other state’s current minimum wage. According to the Department of Labor, the state with the highest minimum wage right now is Washington at $15.74 an hour.
The Overbays say one way people can help support the living wage movement is by recognizing that it matters where you spend your money. Try to research businesses before you buy from them to learn how they treat their employees.