News Column

President, Perez Team Up on Raising Minimum Wage

June 16, 2014

Tom Raum, Associated Press

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez (file photo)
Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez (file photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez teamed up with the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, to meet Monday with kitchen workers at a local restaurant and deliver a lunchtime plea for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

The increase has been a top second-term political priority for President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress. Obama himself pushed the measure again Saturday in his weekly address.

However, it is stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Asked if he sees any recent movement among Republicans on the minimum wage, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said, "The Republicans are talking to us all the time about whether or not this is going to come up. I appreciate that the GOP leadership has a very hard line against ... But I think before the election, we have a very good chance of passing this."

Miller, who is a longtime confidant of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, is not seeking re-election this year after four decades in Congress. "There are a lot of good moving pieces here around this debate," he said.

The higher wage hasn't passed the Democratic controlled Senate or the GOP-run House. The Senate considered it, but then put it aside. House Democratic leaders have made several pleas to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to schedule a vote.

The Labor Department proposed a rule last week to raise the minimum wage for employees of all federal contractors by Jan. 1, 2015, fleshing out an executive order Obama signed in February. There will be a 30-day period for interested parties to submit comments. The department will review the comments and issue a final rule by Oct. 1.

All the full-time workers at the restaurant visited by Perez and Miller make more than the minimum wage. Co-owners of "Sweetgreen," in the Dupont Circle section of the nation's capital, said workers generally start out at $8.50 an hour for the first couple of weeks during training and then they go to an annual salary.

Asked why they decided to go to a business where everybody makes well over the federal minimum wage, Perez said the restaurant demonstrates that small businesses can still pay higher-than-minimum wages and still "do good and do well. You don't have to make a profit on the backs of your workers."

"I think employees feel great to know that we support them and want them to have a comfortable life. Paying them a fair wage is one part of that," said Jonathan Neman, who is co-owner of the business along with Nicolas Jammet. "If at first you don't succeed, you keep trying.

Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum

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Original headline: Administration, allies push for minimum wage hike



Source: Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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