Remarks By Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Minimum Wage Press Conference

By:  Thomas Perez
Date: Feb. 18, 2014
Location: Columbus, OH

Good morning everyone. Senator Brown, thank you for your leadership on this critically important issue. Congresswoman Beatty, thank you for your work in the House fighting for working families. Thank you, Eric, and everyone at Brothers Drake for being our hosts.

President Obama has laid out an agenda based on opportunity for all. It's based on this core principle: everyone who works hard should have a chance to get ahead, a chance to live out their highest and best dreams.

Opportunity for all means rewarding hard work and personal responsibility. And that's why we're working tirelessly for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

This raise would benefit 28 million workers -- more than 1 million of them in Ohio -- giving them a little breathing room and peace of mind. And let's debunk the myth that they're all teenagers earning extra spending money to supplement their allowance. In fact, the average age of affected workers is 35. These are breadwinners and heads of household, people with bills to pay and mouths to feed.

It's not just workers who want to raise the wage. Every day, I meet with employers like Eric who don't think a race to the bottom is a good way to run a business. Whether it's at a big retailer like Costco, or the Ace Hardware down the street from my office, or In-N-Out Burger on the west coast, or Brothers Drake here in Columbus, they all understand that paying a fair wage is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. They understand that respecting and investing in your employees is a sound business model and good for the bottom line.

I want to salute the work that Senator Brown has done on the tipped minimum wage. It's unconscionable that under federal law tipped workers have been frozen at $2.13 an hour for more than two decades. Thankfully here in Ohio, it's almost twice as high. But the last raise for tipped workers nationally was around the time my Buffalo Bills were in the Super Bowl -- that's how long it's been!

The tipped workers I talk to tell me that some weeks, the amount in their paycheck after taxes are taken out is zero. So they're relying entirely on cash tips to survive. One out of every seven of them is on food stamps, and they live in poverty at three times the rate of the entire U.S. workforce. Is this any way to honor the dignity of work?

The bottom line is this: no one who works full-time in the wealthiest nation in the world should live in poverty. It's time to give tipped workers need a raise. It's time to give America a raise.

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