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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8845
JPY
USD
117.71
GBP
USD
0.6643
CAD
USD
1.2669
INR
USD
62.019

Rates may not be current.