Minimum Wage Debate

Feb 18, 2013

Republicans and other critics are blasting President Obama’s call to increase the federal minimum wage from 7.25 to nine dollars an hour. But administration officials are beating the bushes to drum up support.

Brian Bull of Ohio public radio station WCPN recently caught up with Obama’s Acting Secretary of Labor at the ArcelorMittal Steel Plant in Cleveland.

Full Story Copy

Seth Harris touted the Obama Administration’s latest proposals to shore up the middle class and boost the economy.  Harris says a minimum wage increase will help—not hinder—small businesses. 

SHarris01:  “70 percent of the American economy is based on consumer spending.  When you say consumers, you’re talking about working families.  And these low-wage working families will spend their money directly at the local grocery store, at the local tire shop, they’ll pay their rent. It will ricochet through the economy and get us greater growth.  That’s what the president means when he talks about growing an economy from the middle out.” (:24)

That idea’s getting plenty of resistance from Republicans.  House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio calls the proposal a job killer.  So does Tony Seegers, of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. He says it’s enough that businesses are scrambling to implement the president’s Affordable Care Act.  Now they’ll struggle to pay their workers a higher hourly wage. 

TSeegers01: “It’s not meant to be permanent. It’s meant to be something to help the low skilled, and young workers get into the marketplace. And raising it to this percent, you’re …instead of helping people have more money in their pockets, you’re actually going to send more people to the unemployment line.” (:13)

But Leslie Bass says for many like her, it’s all about simply getting by.  The former quality assurance worker turned grocery cashier says she works hard for a wage that barely covers her living expenses.

LBass01: “I want a real job that pays me real money, so…I’m not trying to get rich and go to the Cayman Islands. (laughter) I’m trying to own a car, or at least own a bus pass.  So I can keep the job!” APPLAUSE…(:12)

Ohio is one of ten states where the minimum wage is automatically tied to the cost of living every year.

For Ohio Public Radio, I’m Brian Bull, in Cleveland.