News / Economy

Workers, Politicians Debate Raises for US Low-Wage Workers

US Workers, Politicians Debate Low Wagesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
September 04, 2014 11:54 PM
Thousands of protesters gathered at fast food restaurants around the United States on Thursday to demand a higher minimum wage for American workers. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles that in the absence of action by Congress, the debate over raising the minimum wage is taking place city by city and state by state.
Mike O'Sullivan

Thousands of protesters gathered at fast food restaurants around the United States on Thursday to demand a higher minimum wage for American workers.  In the absence of action by Congress, the debate over raising the minimum wage is taking place city by city and state by state.

Thursday's protests by fast food workers in major American cities, like the one in Atlanta, were billed as the largest yet.  They are part of an ongoing effort to raise the pay of those who work in restaurants and other small businesses.

This past Monday, which was celebrated as Labor Day in the United States, President Barack Obama added his voice to the chorus.

“All across the country right now, there is a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity," he said. "There is no denying a simple truth:  America deserves a raise."

The national minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.  

But the minimum wage is higher in some cities and states, such as California, where workers earn at least $9 an hour.  The city of Seattle has the highest minimum, at $15 an hour, which the protesters want to peg as a national rate.  

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to raise his city's lowest wage to $13.25 an hour within three years.  He also spoke to workers on Labor Day.

“It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages," said Garcetti. "So today we agree is is time to 'raise the wage L.A.'”

U.S. Small Business Administration chief Maria Contreras-Sweet says there is opposition in Congress to any raise.  She spoke Wednesday with VOA after addressing the civic group Town Hall Los Angeles.

“The president announced a 10-10, meaning $10.10 minimum wage, but we understand that throughout the country, there are different economic situations and standards," she said. "And because Congress is not acting, so many mayors and states are taking their own action."

Many small business owners are on the other side of the issue.  Freeman Ho owns an auto repair shop near Los Angeles and has mixed feelings about raising the pay of his workers.

“If the labor rate, labor charge is up, we have to multiply more charging to the customer," he said.

But Ho says workers need more than the current minimum to support their families.

“So at least buying food or the other things, it will give them more chances, I mean purchase power," he said.

Many Americans work long hours for little pay, says Rusty Hicks of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

“And if you work full time, you work 40 hours a week, you should be able to support yourself, support your family, and contribute to your community," he said.

Business groups and many Republicans in Congress say raising the minimum wage will force employers to reduce their work force and hurt those at the bottom of the pay scale. 

Supporters of pay hikes counter that a rise in the minimum wage will boost the U.S. economy and give needed help to the nation's most vulnerable workers.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9103
JPY
USD
119.37
GBP
USD
0.6704
CAD
USD
1.2481
INR
USD
62.371

Rates may not be current.