February 10, 2014

Sens. Warren & Durbin Join Local Workers & Business Owners in Boston to Call for Minimum Wage Increase

BOSTON, MA – At a roundtable discussion in Boston today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) joined local workers and business owners in calling for a minimum wage increase. Boloco founder John Pepper hosted the roundtable discussion at one of the restaurant’s Boston locations, and Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman also attended the event.

“Raising the minimum wage is the first step to rebuild and strengthen America’s middle class,” said Senator Warren. “Congress has not given workers a raise since George W. Bush was president, and the federal hourly minimum wage for tipped workers has been frozen in place at $2.13 since George H.W. Bush was in the White House. It's time to raise the minimum wage because full-time work should not mean full-time poverty.

“Imagine being a single parent working 40 hours a week to care for your two small children. If you’re working for the current minimum wage, you’re living in poverty,” Senator Durbin said. “Raising the minimum wage will lift millions out of poverty and strengthen the middle class in America.”

Senators Warren and Durbin support efforts to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. The senators are co-sponsors of the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S.1737) introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). President Barack Obama also called for an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour in his recent State of the Union Address.

During today’s roundtable discussion, Senators Warren and Durbin heard from local workers about their efforts to make ends meet and support themselves and their families on minimum wage pay.

One local resident who attended today’s discussion is Lawrence (Larry) McCain, who grew up in Dorchester and now resides in East Boston. He is 51 years old and says he is overworked and underpaid. He has been working at Logan Airport for a year for G2 Secure Staff, making $8.30/hour.

"It's hard to survive because I'm just barely making rent and buying groceries,” said McCain. “It's a good thing I can walk to work because I can't afford the T."

In Massachusetts, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition is leading efforts supported by Senator Warren to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.00 per hour to $11.00 per hour through legislative action or a ballot initiative. Raise Up Massachusetts co-chair Lew Finfer attended today’s roundtable. Finfer is Director of Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN), a federation of faith-based community improvement organizations, working in 10 cities in Massachusetts.

"With over 1/2 million people in Massachusetts and 30 million across America, earning less than $10.50 an hour, we have to stand up together for the dignity and respect owed to low wage workers, Finfer said. "Our American values say if you work hard, you should not make wages that leave you in poverty and we together are determined to change that."

Today’s roundtable discussion was hosted by Boloco founder John Pepper, who raised Boloco’s entry-level workers’ pay as CEO, and has supported an across-the-board increase in the minimum wage.

"When we opened our doors 17 years ago, we thought paying higher-than-average wages was a no brainer in order to attract the best people. Though boloco has always been ahead of the average, the average in the restaurant business is unacceptably low," said Pepper. "We have to proactively change our mindset as it relates to low hourly wages and aggressively improve our business models so they can afford to pay livable wages. A higher minimum wage and annual inflation increase is a requirement, but also only a start.  Full-time workers deserve a livable wage, they've certainly earned it, and we will all win because of it."