“Let’s get better wages in this country!” was the rallying cry Wednesday as workers nationwide took to the streets in demonstrations marking the four year anniversary since the last time the federal minimum wage was raised.
If wages see no increase during his second term, Obama will become the first president since Ronald Reagan who didn’t raise the minimum wage at all.
Currently set at $7.25 an hour, the national wage hasn’t had a boost since July 24, 2009 when President George W. Bush increased it from $6.55. Despite skyrocketing costs of living, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage is only making roughly $15,000 per year—far below a living wage in most parts of the country.
In honor of this ‘dispiriting anniversary,’—as Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson writes—labor groups supporting a minimum wage boost have called for a National Day of Action with planned demonstrations in an estimated 30 cities across the country.
In Pittsburgh, protesters have reportedly shut down the street outside of a Target in the East Liberty section of the city. Other rallies are being held outside of a downtown McDonald’s and on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, among other locations throughout the city.
“Tell Panera bread we can’t live on bread alone,” one protester, Pastor Battle, said before an assembled group.
Under the banner Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of groups are staging rallies outside the locations of 13 employers of low-wage workers throughout the New England state including Wal-Mart, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Papa John’s. Advocates are calling for a gradual increase of the wage from $8 to $11 by 2015 and are also pushing for paid sick leave for all workers.
Demonstrators in Cleveland are marching on a local Wal-Mart at noon on Wednesday.
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“It is not ‘a Wal-Mart action,’ ‘It’s a ‘let’s get better wages in this country action,'” said rally organizer Pamela Rosado, who added that Wal-Mart was chosen because it is the top low-wage employer in the country.
“The problem is that these jobs don’t help people to meet their basic needs—not wants and desires or trying to keep up with the Joneses,” she added. “We’re talking about basic needs: shelter, food, clothing and transportation.”
Elsewhere, restaurant chains affiliated with the National Restaurant Association—or “the other NRA” as PR Watch’s Mary Bottari quips—will be receiving “surprise visits” by members of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) to protest the restaurant industry’s coordinated campaign to pass laws preempting local ordinances on worker wages and sick day benefits.
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Throughout cities and communities across the country, thousands are expected to hit the streets today in similar demonstrations. A list of other actions is available on the National Employment Law Project (NELP) website.
National labor organizations such as NELP and SEIU are pushing for passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015. A new poll released Wednesday by NELP found that 80 percent of Americans support this increase.
Despite the national consensus, bills pushing to raise the minimum wage have largely stalled in the House and Senate.
During his 2008 campaign, President Obama stumped for hiking the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 and tying it to inflation in perpetuity. During his State of the Union address earlier this year, he amended that to a lesser goal of $9.00 per hour.
If no wage increase becomes law during his second term, he will become the first president since Ronald Reagan who didn’t raise the minimum wage at all.
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