Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller, and House Democratic Members held a press event today on the need to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for hard-working Americans and called for the passage of H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act. Below are the Leader’s opening and closing remarks:
Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks
“We have so many cameras here today, and we’re very pleased because the subject matter is very important: raising the minimum wage. But I can’t help but wonder if all these cameras are here to welcome the Secretary of Labor or say goodbye to George Miller.
“Very Sad. It’s an honor to be here with the Secretary. We’re very proud of him. He honors us with his presence and with his efforts to raise the minimum wage. We’ll be joined shortly by our Democratic Whip, Mr. Hoyer, who is working the floor right now. So pleased to have the leadership – 40 years of leadership and service to our country – of Congressman George Miller, Chairman Miller of two different committees. Three, actually, including the Policy Committee. And then, our really, very, very special guests: Semethia Butler is with us, and Anna Hovland. And they’re going to tell their personal stories which, more eloquently than anything a public official can say, explain why it is important for us to raise the minimum wage.
“As I travel across the country and have this conversation with the Secretary, you see the work ethic of America in full display. Americans are hardworking and productivity has soared, but their pay checks have not kept pace. Stagnant wages and widening income inequality are hurting families, holding back our economy, and eroding the basic American principle of respecting work.
“There are all kinds of anniversaries and days to observe that are happening now. Last week, we observed the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. A few months before that, I was at the Kennedy Library where we observed the 50th anniversary of passing the Equal Pay Act. And the commission report that came out of that legislation, guess what it said? Raise the minimum wage. It has been something that has been needed and continues to be needed.
“I was telling the Secretary, and George Miller can attest to this, that after we raised the minimum wage in 2007 – Mr. Hoyer was a very important part of that – we went outside to a rally. It passed the House and the Senate within just a short period of time of each other. We went out to a rally. Some of you perhaps were there. Many of our friends were there cheering on, because it hadn’t been raised in 11 years. And in the first 100 hours of Democrats having control of the House, we passed an increase in the minimum wage. And as soon as the rally was finished, Ted Kennedy turned to George and to me and said: ‘You know what we have to do now?’ We said: ‘No, what?’ And he said: ‘Raise the minimum wage.’
“So we just have to keep on doing it. And if we do, if we raise it to $10.10, it will give a long overdue raise to 28 million hard working men and women, create 85,000 jobs, lift 4.5 million Americans out of poverty, help feed, clothe, and shelter some 14 million children. The American people know raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do. Polling tells us this: 71 percent of the American people – that is a very high number – support increasing the minimum wage. Fifty-two percent of Republicans support raising the minimum wage. So we have to make sure that message – my colleagues hear me say it all the time: President Lincoln said: ‘Public sentiment is everything.’ The public is there with this. They know from experience and what they see of other working families that this must be raised. We have to make sure that that’s translated into votes in the Congress.
“Our nation should honor the work ethic of the American people. It’s the moral thing to do. And now I have the privilege of yielding the floor to a very special guest, the distinguished Secretary of Labor, Secretary Perez from Maryland – Mr. Hoyer will be boasting of any connection to Maryland. He is not only a person of commitment and knowledge and judgment on these issues who has been effective. He’s a person of courage who is willing to fight for these issues. We’re awfully glad you’re with us, Mr. Secretary.”
Leader Pelosi’s Closing Remarks
“I know I can speak for my colleagues here in thanking the distinguished Secretary for being with us this afternoon. Please give our thanks and appreciation to President Obama for his leadership…
“…on issues like income disparity and fairness in the workplace. We all want to salute Semethia and Anna for what they are doing and for their courage to come before all of us to present their stories so eloquently, so beautifully. And to speak to the people behind us and in front of us and throughout the country – the two of millions of people.
“It’s really interesting to see one of the newest Members of Congress, Mr. Kildee, speak for the freshman class. And Mr. Miller, he will be 40 years in the Congress.
“It’s important to know that as the Secretary was speaking, some 40 years ago, the model for income was one that talked about stakeholder – to think about stakeholder capitalism. That when decisions were made in the company, it was about what it meant to management, to CEO, and the rest, to the workers, to the community, to the customers so that everybody had a stake. So that purchasing power would increase and the rest. And that income rose, both for the CEO and entry-level worker with productivity, and it all went up like this. So within the next couple of decades, it stopped being stakeholder capitalism to shareholder capitalism. The only thing that was of interest was the shareholder part. And the CEO got – the productivity continued to increase, but worker-level off; a right angle going in the wrong direction.
“So that’s what this is about. Over 60 percent of people in the minimum wage are women – over 60 percent. We want this to be increased for everyone in our country. But we don’t recognize it affects women in a disproportionate way. And that is why we have our theme: ‘When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.’ And the first principle of that economic agenda is to increase the minimum wage.