The “Give America a Raise” bus tour comes to Milwaukee

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Washington DC – Americans agree: No one who works should live in poverty. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening to workers around the country earning minimum wage. The federal minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009, but what hasn’t is the price of food, gas, utilities, and basic necessities under inflation, making it nearly impossible to get by anywhere in America on $7.25 an hour or $15,000 a year. It’s long past time for Congress to give America a raise. And to help drive the point home, Americans United for Change has hit the road with the 11-State “Give America a Raise” Bus Tour supporting President Obama’s plan to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

The latest stop: Milwaukee, WI. With the backdrop of a 45’ long, 16-ton antipoverty billboard on wheels and with invaluable support from Wisconsin Jobs Now and Citizen Action- Wisconsin, Americans United was joined this week by local labor leaders, elected officials, and low-wage workers to call on Sen. Ron Johnson and Congressman Paul Ryan to support the President’s plan.

A recent report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy found that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2016 would increase wages for over half a million Wisconsin workers, boost economic activity in the state by an estimated $517 million, and generate 3,800 jobs.

According to MIT, a living wage in Milwaukee is $19,717 to be able to afford housing, medical care, transportation and food. If full-time Wisconsin workers made $10.10 an hour, they’d earn $21,008 a year.

A recent Marquette University law school poll found 63 percent of registered Wisconsin voters support raising the minimum wage, while just 33 percent oppose it.

And a new Public Policy Polling survey inside Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI-7)’s district found 53% of voters support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and 44% of voters would be less likely to support Duffy’s reelection if he opposes the effort.

Highlights from remarks made at the Milwaukee Tour Stop this week: Jennifer Epps-Addison, Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now: “We’re here today because people all across this country, but particularly in this state, are having a harder and harder time getting by off of what they earn in their pay check.

It makes no sense. We see that Wall St and the big banks, they’ve never been doing better.

They’re doing better now than they did before the economic collapse.

We know it can’t be that there isn’t enough money in our economy. People who work on Wall Street, they want us to think that the economy is unpredictable. That it’s uncontrollable like the weather.

The economy is not the weather. The choices and the decisions and the priorities of our legislatures affect our economy opportunity and our security here in Wisconsin.

And right now there are a lot of legislators who are making the choice not to pay hard working families the money they deserve.

We can do better. We can do better for our country.

We can do better for the hard working men and women who get up and go to work every day and make our state great.

So today we are here to say that jobs pay too little for people to afford the basics.

We didn’t just sit around and wait for the federal government to act. We didn’t sit around and wait for the state to get things together.

No a coalition of 40 organizations and hard working men and women all throughout this county got together and they decided that enough was enough.

And if their legislators at the state level weren’t going to act, that the county board would act instead.

And so Milwaukee County pass a living wage ordinance.

All we’re asking is for the right thing. We’re talking about improving the quality of life for 600,000 workers.

That’s how many people would be affected in Wisconsin alone if we were to raise the wage to $10.10 an hour.”

Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of Wisconsin AFL-CIO: “Brothers and sisters we have gathered here today because no one who works full time in America, who gets up every day and packs their lunch and heads to the shop floor, to the deli, or night shift should have to live in poverty.

We can’t survive on $7.25 Corporate profits are up, Wall Street bonuses are up, productivity is up and it is time for our wages to rise up!

Income inequality is a defining problem of our time and we need to sound the alarm and let politicians like Senator Ron Johnson, Rep. Paul Ryan and even Gov. Scott Walker know that it may be warm and cozy in their offices in DC and Madison, but out here on the streets, out here in real life, workers are struggling to make ends meet. $10.10.

That is a living wage and that is a good start.

The American Dream is slipping further and further away from working people, while the elite and the robber barons grab all the economic gains for the greedy selves Did you know that the Walmart heirs, the Walton family, own more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined?

This isn’t just, it isn’t moral and it isn’t good for our economy. If states increased workers’ wages it would increase local purchasing power, create more jobs and improve the local economy for everyone.

Relying on public assistance to make ends meet is the norm rather than the exception for lowwage workers at places like Walmart, McDonalds, Walgreens and Aurora Hospitals.

Taxpayers and workers are subsidizing multi-millionaire global companies so that owners can get rich.

The good news is our policy makers and elected officers can do something about it and we can do something about it by putting pressure on those who represent us in office.

We’re here to spread the word, to sound the alarm and to put the call out that in Wisconsin — our communities, our workers, our families need $10.10 an hour for survival. $10.10 is fair, just and makes economic sense.”

David Bowen, Milwaukee County Board: “I stand with workers today because we can show what we can do instead of what we can’t do.

Paul Ryan and Ron Johnson need to step up and show leadership because they’re so focused on telling you what they can’t do.

And in Milwaukee County, we are getting it done.

Thirty-eight million dollars pumped into our local economy because of the living wage ordinance. That is coming to this community.

But we can see $517 million if the state had the minimum wage if we moved to $10.10. The whole nation can act.

Poverty is running rampant in our community and the only way we can address that is having a thriving economy.

That’s why we’re focusing on raising the standards for the lowest paid workers in our community. Because they deserve better. Ron Johnson, we are calling on you to act. Paul Ryan we are calling on you to act because in Milwaukee County, we already got it done.”

Kevin Walker, Orion Security Guard middleaged father in Milwaukee who works third shift as a county-contracted guard at Orion security and has a second job in order to try to make ends meet: “I was one of the workers effected by the living wage.

I only made $8.50 an hour and thanks to those who were willing to stick their necks out, a bill was passed that we could start making a decent wage.

Today it’s not about me, it’s about people who are making minimum wage.

We know $10.10 is not enough, but it’s at least a start. We’re calling Sen. Johnson out, asking you to do the right thing.

We’re also calling Paul Ryan out. He was saying that people who live in the ‘inner city’, we’re lazy, and we don’t want to go to work.

Well you’re wrong. We ask you to do the right thing. We’re calling you out.

Now you don’t have any excuse. I’ve got a lot people standing behind me who are trying to get you to do the right thing.

We can’t live off of $7.25 or $8.50. We’re asking those who can make a change, just do the right thing.”

Ms. Mary Coleman, minimum wage Popeye’s worker who is 59, lives with her daughter, who has a heart condition, and her two grandchildren. She also relies on food stamps to make ends meet:

“How many of us love the chicken from Popeye’s? I serve that chicken. I’m a grandmother to six children, a mother of three. I can’t support myself on $7.25. I can’t even take care of myself.

I’m in a position where I have to rely on my daughter. I have to live with my daughter. And that’s not right. It should be the other way around.

They should be relying on me. I should be able to buy birthday presents. I can’t even do that. I’m tired of relying on the system and I’m working person.”

Amina Webb: “I have a two-year-old son, I’m trying to finish my college degree, and I make minimum wage working at Sears.

I’m here today to ask Senator Johnson to vote to raise the minimum wage. If I made more, I would be able to pay more bills on time and also be able to provide the basic life essentials for my family. I don’t want the next generation to grow up in poverty.”

Brad Woodhouse, President, Americans United for Change, released this statement: “Unfortunately, the Tea Party-approved voting records of Senator Ron Johnson and Congressman Paul Ryan show they’re more interested in voting for minimum tax responsibility for millionaires and huge corporations that outsource jobs than helping hard working Wisconsin families climb out of poverty and one rung closer to the middle class.

Their priority should be providing a needed boost not just for the millions of struggling low-wage American workers that can barely survive on $7.25, but for the U.S. economy as a whole.

Raising the minimum wage will create jobs because it puts more money in the pockets of workers who will quickly inject it back into the economy — workers that include child care providers, janitors, and nursing assistants, and who are 35 years old on average.

Millions of people with more money to spend on goods and services means businesses will need to hire more workers to meet the demand.

Decades’ worth of research done after previous minimum wage increases shows nothing but net economic benefits as a result, which is why so many successful business leaders and over 600 economists including seven Nobel Laureates are calling on Congress to raise it again now.”