Cities could increase minimum wage under legislation by Sen. Sara Kyle

NASHVILLE — With cost of living disparities growing, Tennessee Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, says cities should have the power to set a local minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage, which is used in 21 states including Tennessee, is $7.25 an hour—a rate that has not gone up since 2009. Of Tennessee’s 1.5 million hourly workers, about 2 percent earn minimum wage or below, according to 2020 federal labor statistics.

In 29 states, the minimum wage is set higher by state lawmakers. Tennessee Republicans have repeatedly rejected this approach.

Under a state law approved by Republicans, cities and counties are actually prohibited from establishing a minimum wage.

Sen. Kyle says it is time for that law to go. Senate Bill 1971, which will be up in a Senate committee Tuesday, would repeal the law and give local governments the authority to set a local wage policy.

“Tennessee cities should be able to set a local minimum wage that reflects the reality of living in that community,” Sen. Kyle said. “We should empower our cities and counties to solve problems locally instead of trying to micromanage every decision from the state capital.”

Sen. Kyle says no one can live on $7.25 an hour — especially in Tennessee cities where rent prices are increasing much faster than wages.

According to the Memphis Business Journal, rent prices grew at record rates in Memphis last year.

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