Local protestors assembled in Clayton
The Labor Tribune
St. Louis – Protestors lined streets nationwide last week, urging lawmakers to raise the federal minimum wage.
In St. Louis, Clayton Road at Big Bend Boulevard was the hotspot—literally—as about 100 people braved 106-degree temperatures to rally support for a federal minimum wage increase.
The event, organized by Missouri Jobs with Justice and allies, was part of a National Day of Action taking place in 17 major cities across the country marking the 3rd anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage in July 2009, when it rose from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour in the last step of a three-step increase approved by Congress in 2007.
The federal minimum wage campaign, pushed by the Service Employees and Jobs With Justice – with the AFL-CIO – aims at getting Congress to increase the present $7.25 hourly federal minimum by three 85-cents-per-year hikes, then index it to inflation.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Senate Labor Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) have introduced a minimum wage hike bill, but it’s expected to go nowhere in this Congress.
RAISING THE STATE MINIMUM WAGE
Area unions, activists and Jobs with Justice are also pushing to raise minimum wage at the state level.
Missouri Jobs with Justice and its supporters turned in about 160,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in June to qualify to place a $1 statewide increase on the November ballot.
Proponents of “Give Missouri a Raise” are waiting for signature verification from the Missouri Secretary of State’s office to learn whether the issue will be put to voters.
In Clayton, outside the Applebee’s restaurant at 6734 Clayton Road, labor leaders, local politicians, union rank-and-file members and minimum wage workers criticized the stale minimum wage rates and heard one minimum wage worker tell of how an employee making minimum wage must work 1.6 hours to buy a burger and a soda from Applebee’s, while the restaurant’s CEO, Julia Stewart, can pay for that same lunch with just 16 seconds of work.
A worker at Applebee’s making minimum wage brings in $290 a week, while the CEO makes $103,700 a week.
The Rev. Richard Creason, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church was among those leading the rally in Clayton.
“For me, the faith community and the labor community have always been intertwined,” Creason said. “Today we want to lift up the wages of working people and provide the dignity that comes with a fair wage so that Missouri families can provide for the basics of life, home, healthcare and education.”
Val Gordon, a worker who has earned minimum wage at various points of her working life, told of the difficult decisions she must face just to get by.
“In 2003, I made $6.65 an hour and did not get a raise until our federal minimum wage increased. Since then, I have only had a $0.13 increase. I face difficult decisions every day about which bills to pay and how I can still put food on the table.”
Bob Soutier, president of the St. Louis Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, joined the crowd supporting the increase, saying Republican candidates and elected officials like Mitt Romney and Sen. Todd Akin are out of touch working men and women.
“I know Sen. Claire McCaskill backs the minimum wage increase, but all three Republicans that oppose her this fall oppose increasing the minimum wage,” Soutier said. “The moderator in their senatorial debate asked them to name the federal minimum wage figure – and the Republican candidates could not.”
United Food and Commercial Workers President David Cook said that this day and age, when wages between workers and CEOs are seriously lopsided, raising minimum wage is the moral thing to do.
“It isn’t a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It’s a non-partisan issue,” he said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer. The wealthiest have seen their wages go up again and again. But many working men and women find their wages to be stagnant. Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do.”
In Chicago, a massive march drew more than 1,000 people to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, demanding its members – many of whom employ minimum-wage workers –support the federal minimum wage increase.
The Chicagoans had a political angle, too: They began with a “trolley tour” of Dunkin Donuts shops, emphasizing Bain Capital’s exploitation of its minimum-wage workers. GOP-frontrunner Mitt Romney owned and ran Bain.