ATLANTA -- For one natural gas company in Atlanta, employees can expect to see their income double as minimum wage gets raised to $15 per hour.
The increase for Gas South, a natural gas company based in Cobb County, will go into effect Sept. 1 and will provide pay increases primarily for the customer care department, approximately 25 percent of the company’s workforce.
The federal minimum wage in Georgia is $7.25 per hour while the state’s minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, one of the lowest minimum wage rates in the nation.
The federal minimum wage pay rate has been in effect the past seven years while the state’s rate of $5.15 has been set for almost 20 years. This has caused people to speak out against the low rate, especially after California, New York and Pennsylvania have already raised their minimum wage to $15 per hour. Earlier in the year, McDonald’s employees took to Atlanta’s Downtown streets to voice their frustrations through a demonstration.
Kevin Greiner, the company's President and CEO, released a statement, saying:
“Gas South’s decision to pay all employees what we feel is a fair and living wage will in no way impact the rates we charge customers. We see this as a positive investment in our employees and also our customers, and we expect the wage increase to reduce our costs because it will lead to higher retention and more motivated employees. Therefore, our rates will not increase, in any way, as a result.”
Having a large company such as Gas South raise their minimum wage could possibly lead other companies to do the same in the future, and economist Tom Smith said it's about time.
"Paying a wage that may be higher than the market could encourage higher productivity and loyalty," Smith said. "It is [also] a good move to encourage people to look for jobs in Georgia and encourage other companies to move to Georgia."
But the company said the move wasn't about making a political statement, it was done simply so its employees could earn a living wage. Further, Greiner said it makes for a better work environment.
"That makes people more productive at work, more happy to be here and hopefully leads to a better customer experience," he said.
Stacy Patton, who works in Gas South's customer service department said she is appreciative for the increased wages.
"It definitely, for me, is going to launch me forward," Patton told 11Alive's Chris Hopper.
In addition to the newly-increased wages, Gas South also provides their employees with sixteen days of paid time annually, and an additional four weeks of paid leave every five years.