Flanked by business owners who said they experienced measurable benefits to paying their employees above the minimum wage, Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the impact of such a move would go far beyond the individual worker.
"We know that 70 percent of the economy is driven by consumer spending," Casey said. "If you put more dollars in the pockets of consumers, not only do you have that overarching economic benefit to the country, but of course small businesses especially benefit."
But the more powerful testimony came from John Cooper, Clifton Broumand and Scott Nash, who told stories of their employees who "were more like family" and stayed with their companies for decades because they could count on a "a fair wage for a fair day's work."
Broumand, who owns Man & Machine Inc., which makes medical-grade waterproof keyboards and mice, said that paying his employees well meant they were more innovative and loyal.
"Inevitably as a business owner, you're not going to get as much money initially, but I've found that productivity by people who have less stress, who are happier in their jobs, actually increases substantially every time they're getting more money," he explained. "And therefore, it doesn't take that long for me to actually become more productive and actually make more money."
Sen. Blumenthal, who cheered his state legislature's vote to pass its own minimum wage hike Wednesday as "not a final destination, but a step in the right direction," described the short term pinch as "an investment."
"These guys are here because they took a risk, a big risk," he said. The minimum wage looks like a risk, but actually, it's one of the soundest investments we can make."
Cooper, president of Spectronics Corporation, a Westbury, N.Y. company that builds ultraviolet lamps for forensic and fingerprint analysis, said more than 70 percent of his company's employees had been there for more than 10 years.
"A higher minimum wage will result in increased employee retention, which means lower costs for hiring and training new workers," he said. "It will allow workers to buy essentials they cannot afford now and most of the money they spend will go right back into local businesses."
"Raising the minimum wage might have a short impact on our profits, the bottom line, but in the long run, it benefits our workers, and it benefits me as owner of the company as well," he said. "So it's a win, win."