MILWAUKEE – Today, during the White House’s “Virtual Road Trip” on Google Hangouts, President Obama answered questions from average Americans in real time. Darnell Summers, a Milwaukee fast-food worker, asked the President about raising wages.
“Mr. President, I’m only making $7.25 an hour and I’ve been on strike four times in association with Wisconsin Jobs Now to get an increase in wages and a union,” said Darnell. “What can you do to help people like me who are struggling to survive?”
President Obama responded by highlighting the need for Congress to raise the minimum wage and stressed the importance of local governments taking action. Additionally, the President noted that employers like Costco, with high starting salaries, have high profits and retention when compared to their competitors.
Darnell is a 57 year old Popeye’s worker who currently earns the federal minimum wage. He is also a member of Raise Up Milwaukee, the organization of fast food workers that held four one-day strikes in 2013 calling for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. On December 5, fast food strikes also took place in Madison and Wausau as well as over 100 cities nationwide.
During his State of the Union Address, President Obama raised the pay for employees for federal contractors to $10.10 and urged local elected officials to take similar action. On January 30, the Milwaukee County Finance Committee recommended that the County Board adopt a living wage ordinance to raise wages for employees of county contractors to $11.33, or 100 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four. Rep. Cory Mason’s Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise Wisconsin’s minimum wage to $10.10, has attracted dozens of co-sponsors and is awaiting action in the legislature.
“Workers across the country have stood up to say enough is enough. Our elected officials, including the President, are starting to take notice,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, director of Wisconsin Jobs Now. “We applaud President Obama’s actions and are calling on local leaders like the state legislature and Milwaukee County Board to follow suit and to take action to raise wages.”