Gov. Mike Easley Thursday signed into law a bill that will increase the state's minimum wage by $1.
House Bill 2174 raises the hourly minimum pay rate from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour and also ties North Carolina's minimum wage to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
If the federal minimum wage is raised, employees in North Carolina will receive whichever wage is higher. The federal minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour and has not been raised in nine years.
At a news conference Thursday, Easley said the bill is just one step in changing the state's economy.
"We are not trying to build a low-road economy based on low wages and low skill. Those days are gone," Easley said.
"We are building a better workforce by providing the knowledge, talent and skill our citizens need to succeed in the global marketplace," he added. "This higher level of education is bringing in high-paying jobs but raising the minimum wage helps our people make the needed transition to this new economy."
Several state and community leaders, including bill sponsor Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, who worked to get the bill passed in both the House and Senate.
"Raising the minimum wage by this first dollar is a small but significant step in the right direction toward a living wage," she said. "It sends a powerful message that North Carolina values hard work and is concerned about working poor families and the 'least of these' among us who need a lift up."
An estimated 139,000 workers will benefit from the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2007.
How much skill does it take to say, "hi welcome to Wal-Mart, wanta a sticker?" or to flip a burger or sweep a floor. Mr. Easley, I have to inform that bio-tech engineers, nurses, doctors and teachers aren't makeing $5.15 per hour.