Saying that wage rates should be set by labor supply and demand rather than by government, the board of governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday passed a resolution opposing any move by Congress to increase the minimum wage.
The resolution noted that an estimated 500,000 jobs will be lost if the minimum wage is increased, including entry-level positions held primarily by the inexperienced, the needy and youth.At the same meeting, the board took no action on a proposal by Questar Corp. to tear down the old Utah-Idaho School Supply Co. building at 155 S. State and turn it into a parking lot. Wm. James Mortimer, board chairman, said the executive committee will study the issue further.
The resolution opposing raising the minimum wage said small businesses, the nation's principal employers, "could be seriously harmed by the uncontrollable increases in the cost of doing business."
Ken Hill, a member of the chamber's Congressional Relations Committee, said there are several measures pending in Congress that would raise the minimum wage. Also, a plank endorsed at the recent Democratic national convention calls for a minimum-wage increase tied to inflation.
The chamber resolution urges Utah's congressional delegation to vote against any increase in the minimum wage.
Regarding the building demolition, John Pingree, Utah Transit Authority general manager and a member of the board of governors, said a recent Regional Urban Design Assistance Team suggested that for Salt Lake City to regain its vitality, historic buildings should be removed only after extensive study.
Pingree said Questar officials believe it's too expensive to remodel the building and use it for company business. He said the building has some historical significance because it originally was the home of a Studebaker wagon outlet.
Retired banker Leon Harmon said the chamber should be careful about taking a stand on the issue because forcing the company to keep the building "stands in the way of free enterprise."
I.J. Wagner said people can only spend money when they aren't driving their cars, and so having another parking lot in downtown Salt Lake City will entice people to shop there.
The board also heard from Jackie Nokes, Utah Division of Expositions director, who said the State Fairgrounds should be used to help tourism by housing exhibits and Utah historical artifacts. She said the fairgrounds could also help tell Utah's story on education.
Nokes said Exhibit Building No. 2 has escaped the wrecking ball and the Legislature appropriated $3 million for renovation. Holding a model of the building, Nokes said the upper floor could be used for high school proms and the lower floor for exhibits and banquets when the fair is not running.
She even suggested that trains destined for Great Salt Lake originate from a location south of the fairgrounds like they used to and that would help tourism.