Senators Face Pressure to Raise Minimum Wage Ahead of Upcoming Vote

Rubio and Johnson singled out for opposition to raising minimum wage; Donnelly, Nelson, Coons, and Carper urged to co-sponsor Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013

Washington, DC – With a vote to raise the federal minimum wage expected in the U.S. Senate soon after Thanksgiving recess, voters on Wednesday urged Senators of both parties to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

Constituents, including low-wage workers, gathered at the state offices of Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Tom Carper (D-DE), urging them to co-sponsor the Fair Minimum Wage Act. Delegations to each office emphasized the importance of each senator’s support and co-sponsorship of the bill ahead of the vote.

Meanwhile, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) drew fire from voters outside their state offices, calling attention to theirrecord of opposition to raising the minimum wage.

“Millionaires like Sen. Johnson don’t understand reality,” said Devonte Yates, who works for minimum wage at a McDonalds in Milwaukee. “People like me work hard but we can’t survive without public assistance.  I make burgers at work but can’t afford to make my own burger at home.”

Small business owners and low-wage workers also held a press conference at the Cedar Rapids office of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the lead sponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, emphasizing the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage. An April 2013 poll found that 67 percent of small business owners support raising and indexing the minimum wage and indicated that the majority believe it will help the economy.

“If a small company, like ours, pays all of our employees at least $10 per hour to start, large companies like Starbucks, Macy’s, McDonald’s or Walmart, who all have annual profits in excess of $1 billion, can certainly afford to increase their workers’ wages to $10 or $15 per hour, and still have plenty leftover to continue paying their CEOs multi-million dollar salaries,” said Rhonda Walker, Vice President at Alpha Services Inc., a maintenance services business with 50 employees in Waterloo, Iowa.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, would benefit an estimated 30 million low-paid workers and generate $32 billion in economic growth, according to an analysis of Census data by the Economic Policy Institute. The measure would also index the minimum wage to rise each year with the cost of living, and boost the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 per hour to 70 percent of the full minimum wage.

The events Wednesday occur just weeks after the Obama Administration announced its support for the Fair Minimum Wage Act following a meeting with Senate Democrats. A national poll conducted in July 2013 by Hart Research Associates found that 80 percent of Americans, including 62 percent of Republican voters, support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The poll also found that 74 percent of Americans consider raising the minimum wage to be an important legislative priority for Congress to address over the next year.

The most rigorous economic research over the past 20 years shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high. A recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reviews the past two decades of research on the impact of minimum wage increases on employment and concludes that “the weight of the evidence points to little or no effect of minimum wage increases on job growth.”  In February, leading mainstream economists polled by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business backed raising and indexing the minimum wage by nearly a 4 to 1 margin, saying that the benefits outweigh any costs.