Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Minimum Wage Support Grows


During a recent talk at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson indicated his support for legislation in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. “I will tell you we will support legislation that moves forward,” he said. Later in the talk, Mr. Thompson continued, “McDonald’s will be fine. We’ll manage through whatever the additional cost implications are.” It turns out that, contrary to the stale Republican talking points, one of the largest low-wage employers in the country does not have a problem with a higher minimum wage.

We have been vigorously advocating for a raise in the federal minimum wage for several years now. Much progress has been made in that time. Unfortunately, little of this progress has come in the halls of Congress, leaving cities and states across the country to do the work that our national leaders won’t do.

Twenty two states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages that are higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In 2014 alone, seven states (Connecticut ($10.10 per hour by 2017), Delaware ($8.25 per hour by 2015), Hawaii ($10.10 per hour by 2018), Maryland ($10.10 per hour by 2018), Michigan ($9.25 per hour by 2018), Minnesota ($9.50 per hour by 2016) and West Virginia ($8.75 by 2016)) plus the District of Columbia ($11.50 per hour by 2016) have signed minimum wage increases into law. And Vermont’s legislature also recently passed legislation to raise their minimum wage to $10.50 by 2018, but it awaits action from Governor Peter Shumlin. Many cities have also decided not to wait on Washington: Seattle ($15 per hour by 2017), San Francisco ($10.74 per hour), Santa Fe ($10.66 per hour), and San Jose ($10.15 per hour) have all passed increases in their local minimum wage.

Supporting this action at the state and local level, poll after poll has shown that a vast majority of Americans — 70 to 80 percent — support an increase in the minimum wage. So why hasn’t Congress taken the hint?

Only recently have Democrats gotten serious about the issue and pushed for a vote on legislation in both houses of Congress for a $10.10 per hour minimum wage phased in by 2016. In March in the House of Representatives, Democrats proposed an amendment to a bill which would have raised the federal minimum wage. Republicans in the House voted the measure down unanimously. On April 30, the Senate tried to bring legislation raising the federal minimum wage to a vote. Yet again, Republicans stood in the way and threatened to filibuster, leaving the Democrats short of the 60 votes required to defeat a filibuster.

But in the days that followed the Senate vote, it became clear that the Republican Party’s opposition to a federal minimum wage increase was not shared by some of its leaders. In May, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney all called on the Republican Party to support an increase to the minimum wage.

Republican corporatists’ worn-out and cruel arguments against raising the minimum wage haven’t changed for decades. This despite the fact that the federal minimum wage has been raised numerous times since it was first established in 1938, never being followed by the disastrous consequences and falsehoods peddled by its opponents. Yet, time and again the same opponents roll out their unchanged “sky is falling” predictions and do their best to impersonate Chicken Little.

As if it weren’t enough that some of the Republican Party’s leaders were breaking with the party on this issue, now their loudest talking point is being undermined by the very people the Republican Party pretends to speak for in its opposition to raising the minimum wage: businesses and large corporations. McDonald’s CEO’s support for a higher federal minimum wage was just the latest development in what has become a steady stream of acceptance from some of the nation’s largest low-wage employers who are reading the tea leaves.

In February, Gap Inc. announced that it would raise the minimum pay for its workers to $10 per hour by next year, which would raise the pay of 65,000 of its 90,000 American employees.

In May, following the Republicans’ filibuster, Walmart and Subway indicated that they do not oppose an increase to the minimum wage. Subway’s CEO, Fred Deluca, indicated that he was “not concerned” by the prospect of an increased minimum wage and that he believed it “won’t have a negative impact.” And it was reported in the Wall Street Journal that Walmart finally has said that while a minimum wage increase would increase their labor costs, they also believe it could increase their sales (presumably by putting more money into the economy and in particular into low-wage workers’ pockets, who compose a large portion of Walmart’s customers). Also in May, Panera Bread’s CEO, Ron Shaich, indicated his support for raising the federal minimum wage. Costco already starts its workers at $11.50 per hour plus benefits.

The low wages that many of these large, profitable corporations provide doesn’t only harm low-wage workers, but they also harm all taxpayers. By paying their employees such low wages, corporations end up employing workers who can’t afford to buy food, pay the rent, or get the health care that they need. As a result, these employees end up having little choice but to turn to taxpayer-funded government safety nets for things like food stamps, Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and housing-assistance programs. In this perversion of capitalism, taxpayers end up footing the bill for and subsidizing these large corporations’ low wages, while their CEOs make up to $12,000 per hour!

The House Education and Workforce Committee released a report last year which showed that for every Walmart Supercenter, the cost to taxpayers was between $900,000 and $1.75 million. One would think that for Republicans who generally decry government intervention, they would recognize this fact and end this thinly veiled corporate subsidy. And now, even many of these corporations are not resisting. Republicans should follow their lead.

Republican corporatists are fighting what has long been a losing battle. They should stop standing in the way of a raise for 30 million hardworking Americans who are making less today, adjusted for inflation, than they did 46 years ago. The political opponents of Republicans who don’t embrace the idea that it is “time for a raise” — whether they are Democrat, Independent, or a Republican primary challenger — should use these Republicans’ opposition to this policy against them. If Republicans want to play a game of Chicken (Little), then let them – to their own defeat!

Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”