Business owners from across the country and a wide spectrum of industries met with U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to discuss the need for an increased minimum wage. Business leaders from EILEEN FISHER, New Belgium Brewing (CO), Zingerman's (MI), Ace Hardware stores (DC and MD), InterMedia Partners (NY) and 16 other companies and business organizations participated in the roundtable. The President has signaled that he will feature his support for increasing the minimum wage in his State of the Union address on January 28, and business leaders say it's time for Congress to act.
"We've grown since opening Zingerman's Delicatessen almost 32 years ago to eight businesses in Ann Arbor employing 625 permanent staff with revenues just under $50 million dollars," said co-owner Paul Saginaw. "Paying entry wages our employees can live on has contributed to our profitability and our annual compounded growth rate of 10 percent. Raising the minimum wage is long overdue."
"It's not just workers who support an increase in the minimum wage," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "What I heard from these men and women who run small businesses is that when you put more money in workers' pockets, they stay on the job longer which reduces turnover and training costs. Additionally, those workers spend that extra income at local businesses in their communities which benefits the overall economy. It's really that simple."
Gina Schaefer, co-owner of nine Ace Hardware stores in Washington, DC and Maryland, said, "We have nearly 200 employees and our starting wage for sales associates is $10 an hour. That helps us attract and retain employees who deliver the great service that draws large numbers of customers to our stores and enables us to stay competitive. Increasing the minimum wage will help promote a healthy, dedicated workforce and keep more dollars circulating in our local economy."
"Today's minimum wage is the same as 1950, adjusted for inflation," said Holly Sklar, director of business for a Fair Minimum Wage, which organized business participation in the meeting. "If lower wages were the solution, our economy would be thriving. In reality, we need to raise the abysmal minimum wage to revitalize our economy."
The business leaders attending the Roundtable want Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and Rep. George Miller (CA), which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage in three steps to $10.10 and then provide for annual cost-of-living adjustments. They and hundreds of other business owners and executives across the country are signing an open petition, which can be found at: http://www.businessforafairminimumwage.org/Federal-Sign-On-Statement.
David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, which with its member organizations represents more than 200,000 businesses across the country, said, "The business case and the economic case for an increase in the minimum wage are very sound, and we see strong support continuing to build within the business community. Congress needs to give the economy a much-needed boost by giving our lowest-paid workers a raise."