Amazon weighs in on minimum wage hike and Shupe fires back

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Good afternoon,

Amazon is no longer a bystander in the debate over a $15 minimum wage.

The online giant took out full-page advertisements in the print editions of Delaware State News and News Journal, calling for the state to adopt the $15 an hour wage by 2025.

Amazon has long called for a higher base wage in national advertising but is taking sides in the battle brewing in Dover. A hearing on the bill is slated for Wednesday.

State Rep. Bryan Shupe, R-Milford, was quick to respond today with an Email message.

“Now, they see their chance to eliminate the competition by making it unaffordable to run a family-owned or small business,” he wrote, pointing to figures indicating that the bulk of the state’s jobs come from smaller employers.

Last week, an Email from Shupe promoted a bill he introduced that called for a study of the economic impact of the minimum wage on Delaware. The bill, in the unlikely event that it is passed, would effectively kill consideration in 2021.

Shupe comes with credentials that include the ownership of a small retail business in Milford. Before seeking a House seat, he served as mayor of the city in a growing area that straddles the Kent-Sussex county line.

Why is a downstate House member taking on Amazon and big retail?

The ambitious legislator could be eying higher office by running on a populist agenda focusing on the overall discomfort of seeing Amazon become a big part of the state’s economy?

Also worth noting are Shupe’s ties to supermarket executive Chris Kenny.

Kenny last year built an online media “roll-up” with the purchase of Shupe’s MilfordLive, TownSquare Delaware, and a sports website.

Shupe heads Kenny’s media company that also includes DelawareLive, a new website touted as an alternative to the News Journal/Delaware Online.

Kenny comes with deep pockets. The family-owned Shoprite stores sailed through the pandemic with minor restrictions. The stores employ 1,500. (The job number is courtesy of the Delaware Business Times.

Kenny is no fan of a higher minimum wage that would squeeze margins at Shoprites in northern New Castle County.

He is also a co-founder of A Better Delaware, a public policy group critical of the state’s taxes and spending. One focus of the group is the gross receipts tax, which is paid by larger businesses but is difficult to pass along to consumers.

An offshoot of the organization formed a PAC that supported two Republican state senators and one Democrat.

Thanks in part to the above-listed bully pulpits, there was talk of Kenny running for governor in 2020. Nothing materialized. But there’s always 2023.

There are many reasons for the unease regarding Amazon, given concerns over working conditions, competition on the entry-level end of the job market, and its impact on storefront retailers.

Outgoing founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently conceded that the company needs to do a better job on the human side.

The risk for Shupe and others taking on Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc., is that the minority party will inadvertently project an anti-business image.

Up until now, opposition to Amazon has been led by Newark state Rep. John Kowalko – the ideological opposite of Republicans and many Democrats. Kowalko continues to press for higher income taxes for the wealthy despite a state surplus.

Shupe and others know they have a battle ahead in fighting the path to a $15 an hour minimum wage.

For their part, lefty Democrats worry that the committee hearing the bill is stacked with skeptics of the higher wage.

The latest bill minimum wage bill passed by a hefty margin in the state Senate and polls locally and nationally show broad support.

Some opponents may now feel their best hope is to take on giant retailers and online sellers. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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