An Obama administration representative met with local labor representatives and advocates for low-wage workers Wednesday to bolster support for the president's push to raise the federal minimum wage.

Jay Williams, executive director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, lead a roundtable discussion about the issue Wednesday at the United Way of the Quad-Cities Area in Davenport. He said Obama's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour is part of an effort to further the nation's economic recovery by building the middle class.

Williams said people who work hard and do the right things should at least be able to provide for their families and have some financial security.

"Unfortunately, we have not seen that for far too many people in this country," Williams said.

Williams also rejected some common arguments against raising the minimum wage, including the idea that it hurts businesses.

Williams said companies that pay low wages have more employee turnover, which results in increased cost for hiring and training new employees and decreased production.

He also said that although some people think the minimum wage benefits only teenagers, 80 percent of all minimum-wage workers are older than 20 and nearly half are the primary bread winners in their families.

Tom Moritz, a representative for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 431 and the Iowa vice president for the Quad-City Federation of Labor, said a group of Wal-Mart employees recently visited the union office and said that because they get only part-time hours, many are forced to have second jobs or rely on government assistance.

"They work hard, they're decent people, but there's no opportunity for them to get ahead," he said.

Dino Leone, a representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 and president of the Quad-City Federation of Labor, said he recently took a group of care workers to Springfield, Ill., to meet with legislators and related the story of one woman who could pay for her employers' private health insurance plan if she made $1 more per hour.

But because she can't afford it, a $100,000 hospital bill for the woman's daughter was passed along to the state, Leone said.

Williams said more employees with health insurance can help save on medical costs for all taxpayers because preventative care can help avoid expensive medical treatments.

"You're going to have to pay one way or the other," Williams said. "Sooner or later, you're going to pay."

Tom Seymour, president of the Q-C Alliance for Retired Americans, said he represented people who are "too old to work and too young to die," many of whom worked for years and saved for their retirements only to have their pension funds and other savings wiped out in the economic collapse.

Seymour said retired people are being pushed back into the workforce, and working for the current minimum wage makes it difficult for them to enjoy their grandchildren and do the other things they worked and planned for years to do in their retirement.

Moritz also said he would like to see more government support for low-wage earners who go back to school to be trained for a higher-paying career.

(10) comments

Family man

Cd1001, you didn't answer my question . What wage do you think should be paid to someone who dries cars at a car wash or runs a cash register?

Family man

How much do you think minimum wage should be? What would you want to pay someone to run a cash register, dry off cars at a car wash, answer phones at a pizza place, etc..? Do you really think that jobs with those skill levels should pay enough to support a whole household, drive a new car or pay a mortgage? Seriously? Why would anyone ever try to succeed or go to college to have a career if any job they get will allow them to live well? Face it, minimum wage jobs aren't going to do those things for you, and forcing employers to pay those type of wages for unskilled labor would be ridiculous.

cd1001

Yeah, right, "family man," you can definitely look at my comment as suggesting everyone in the country should have a new car. *rolling eyes* Seriously, unless you can at least be honest in how you depict the statements of others, you're not worth conversing with.

cd1001

You people who think you're not suffering because minimum wage is too low -- the ones who make a lot more than minimum wage: your taxes are paying for foodstamps for minimum wage earners, while the top management and CEO's of companies are making hundreds of times more than they ever made before. It's corporate welfare, pure and simple.

Our taxes should not subsidize an ultra cheap work force for a bunch of millionaires.

Small businesses? Small businesses used to pay a living wage to their workers, plus good benefits. That was when we supported local business rather than running to the cheapest box store. The good ones survived, the bad ones did not.

It might be more difficult now because all their neighbors would rather shop at WalMart and get cheap carp made in China than support their local businessman, but -- seriously, you know who you are and there is a 98% chance that you are one -- that's the fault of the consumer who won't pay a little more for local business.

And if you're not paying a little more for local businessmen, stop complaining that something might be bad for those small local businessmen. You are their problem.

The public should demand that companies pay their workers a living wage so we don't have to subsidize greed. And if the price goes up -- that's not because the lowest people are making another ten dollars a day. That's because the highest people won't make a few million less a year.

Jack S

"Our taxes should not subsidize an ultra cheap work force for a bunch of millionaires. "
......................well put CD101 !

mommakelly
mommakelly

You MEN are ridiculous. You don't want people to earn a liveable wage, saying it will hurt the middle class by raising the prices of goods and services, and yet you turn around and complain about people collecting food stamps and welfare and call them leeches on society. According to the Washington Post (a conservative newspaper) http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/09/18/who-receives-benefits-from-the-federal-government-in-six-charts/, nine tenths of the subsidies in America go to working families, the disabled and elderly, and so if people were able to support their families on minimum wage, the number of "welfare" recipients would decrease and the American people would save money. Right now, the minimum wage is about $15K a year and no one can support themselves, much less a family, so assistance is required. You can't have it both ways...you can't make women have babies they can't afford (because you want to outlaw abortions and don't want the government to give out free birth control), with no education, (because you don't want to pay for a good public education system or send people to college for free) working jobs that don't pay enough money to support themselves (because you don't want "middle 'Umrka" to have to pay more for a can of green beans), and then turn around and complain that "only lazy people" get welfare and that women shouldn't be out in the workforce...they should be home taking care of the kids you all want to make them have because you want to outlaw abortion and restrict birth control! Amazing...how many sides of your mouths do you guys have?

cd1001

Great point about minimum wage earners having to get food stamps to survive. It's corporate welfare -- taxpayers make up for companies not paying its workers a living wage.

Family man

I agree with mendlemen, $9/hr is not middle class. Like I said in previous post, raising the minimum wage will only hurt the middle class because the prices of goods and services will go up accordingly. Companies are not going to make less profit, they will simply make up for it elsewhere, either by raising prices or cutting employees.

Family man

All a minimum wage increase will accomplish is that the prices if goods and services will go up accordingly. The people who already make more than minimum wage will feel it most, and the people who make minimum wage will be in the same boat.

mendelmen

Middle class earners make more than $9/hr. Political buzzwords at their best.

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