A bus traveling through 11 states on its “Give America a Raise” tour to advocate for an increased federal minimum wage stopped in front of the state Capitol along the Kanawha River on Wednesday afternoon.
Urging Congress to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, slogans painted on the side of the bus read: “Raise Americans’ Wages,” “Raise Families Out of Poverty” and “Raise Economic Activity.”
The Rev. Jeff Allen, director of the West Virginia Council of Churches, thanked state legislators for passing and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for signing a bill to raise West Virginia’s hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75.
“Raising the minimum wage will provide a boost to the economy all over the country,” Allen said.
The new state law will increase West Virginia’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 an hour by 2016.
Brooke Drake, events coordinator for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said, “At my last job as a waitress, I made $2.13 an hour to serve food with a smile on my face. I made a little more than the minimum wage with tips.
“But even with no children, no car and sharing my rent, I had problems, like having our utilities cut off.”
Drake strongly supports “providing an increase in pay to workers who constantly spend their wages in their local areas.”
Lauren Weiner helped organize the bus tour sponsored by two groups, Americans United for Change and Give America a Raise.
“This is one of last stops on our tour,” Weiner said. “We started out in Bangor, Maine on March 24 and we will end up in Washington, D.C. by noon tomorrow.”
“Today, 80 percent of businesses already pay more than the minimum wage.”
The tour, Weiner said, has included stops in New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky.
In Washington, tour participants will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
On its website, “Give America a Raise” states that “Americans agree: No one who works should live in poverty. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening to workers around the country earning minimum wage.
“The federal minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009. But what hasn’t is the price of food, gas, utilities and basic necessities under inflation, making it nearly impossible to get by anywhere in America on $7.25 an hour or $15,000 a year. It’s long past time for Congress to give America a raise.”
Kenneth Hill from the NAACP said, “When we raise the minimum wage for Main Street, Wall Street profits too.”
Allison Clements, from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the new state legislation will give 127,000 working West Virginians a pay raise. This is a first step to reducing income inequality.”
Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said that if the federal minimum wage increases from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, a full time worker’s annual salary will increase from $15,080 to $21,008.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund issued a new report on Wednesday that states, “Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would increase the wages of 168,000 workers in West Virginia and generate more than $182 million in economic activity in the state….
“Of the 168,000 workers who would receive additional wages from increasing the minimum wage, 58.9 percent are women.”
Another Center for American Progress report stated raising the federal minimum wage would result in as many as 25,792 West Virginians no longer needing SNAP benefits, previously called food stamps, saving the federal government almost $38 million over 10 years.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.