Acting Labor Secretary Visits Atlanta to Push for Minimum Wage Increase

Mar 13, 2013

U.S. Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris paid a visit to Atlanta today to speak with dozens of low-wage workers. The effort is part of a multi-city push to lobby for President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage. The President’s plan would increase the minimum wage in a series of steps from $7.25 cents per hour to $9.00 per hour by 2015 and thereafter tie future increases to inflation.

Secretary Harris spoke with workers like Amelia Mitchell at the Center for Working Families. Mitchell is a single mother who works as a cashier at Kroger and makes $7.30 cents per hour. She says its difficult raising three children on her current salary.

“Younger kids they want to do so much, they want to do so many different types of sports, they want to travel, they want to go to attractions and it’s hard all the time to have to tell the kids this week no this week we can’t do it, this week can’t go,  because Mommy has to pay a bill.”

Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Seth Harris sits down with workers at the Center for Working Families in Atlanta.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

And when Secretary Harris asked the 30 workers gathered at the center these questions nearly all of them raised their hands.

“Among the workers in the room, how many of you have had to choose which bill you’re going to pay in a given month? Just raise your hand up if you had to make a choice. How many of you had to make a choice between paying a bill and buying food for the family?”

That’s why Harris says Congress needs to raise the minimum wage.

"They really need this increase, not because it’s going to make them rich, not because it’s going to put them on easy street, but it will give them a little bit of breathing room. It might take one bill down a little bit. It might make the difference between whether or not their kids get healthy food or don’t get healthy food. That’s not too much to ask for these workers.”

That includes Rahkia Williams who works part-time in retail because she’s unable to find full-time work.

She makes $8.50 per hour, which amounts to about $326 every two weeks.

“After I do the math I might have $46 a month left for whatever. That means soap, toilet tissue, washing dish detergent and I have to make that work for me, and it’s just really hard.”

Secretary Harris says the increase would mean $3,500 more per year for a full-time worker and help 500,000 Georgians.

He says that would help the economy by putting money in workers’ pockets, which would ripple through local communities. Republicans who oppose the increase argue the higher labor costs would affect job growth and could force companies to lay off workers.