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Published: Wednesday, 7/25/2012

Raise in minimum wage urged

Local group takes part in day of action by advocacy agencies


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Three years after the last increase in the nation's minimum wage, worker advocacy groups have begun a concerted effort to raise it from $7.25 an hour.

A national day of action took place on Tuesday, with planners calling on corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., McDonald's Corp., and Yum! Brands Inc. to lift the wages of their lowest-paid workers.

"We need to put more money in the pockets of those workers who line the foundation of the economy," said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, one of the organizations pushing for the pay increase.

In Toledo, a rally was staged on Monroe Street near Talmadge Road by a local grass-roots coalition, Fight For A Fair Economy. About 40 people attended the rally.

Greg Lyons, lead organizer for Fight For a Fair Economy, said, "The minimum wage hasn't been raised for three years, and the cost of living keeps rising. … There's a bill in Congress, and we're out to support it."

Mr. Lyons said those on minimum wage are struggling. "Just to make ends meet, just to pay the rent and put food on the table, and take care of kids, it's a struggle," he said.

Ms. Owens and others involved in the wage campaign note that many corporations have recovered from the Great Recession and are recording record profits. Meanwhile, the real value of average hourly wages for all workers has fallen.

Opponents, however, say raising the minimum wage will result in lost jobs.

For the nation's lowest-paid workers, the purchasing power of the minimum wage now is 30 percent less than it was in 1968. If today's minimum wage had kept pace with the value it had in 1968, adjusted for inflation, it would be more than $10 an hour.

Meanwhile, retail sales figures this month showed lackluster consumer demand. That's evidence, Ms. Owens said, that a "modest pay hike" is needed to "generate the added spending businesses need to create more jobs."

A minimum-wage increase would affect an estimated 28 million American workers.

A report issued Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank, concurs with the Law Project's assessment that an increase is needed. Doug Hall, a director at the institute, a research organization that advocates for working people, said this is the right time to raise the minimum wage.

"Doing so in a weak economy not only helps those who most need help, it also provides an immediate boost to the economy, generating additional economic activity that benefits everyone," Mr. Hall said.

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