The GOP is having an increasingly difficult time explaining why its constituents don’t deserve a raise. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) attended a town hall meeting in Tampa, Florida to solicit votes for his campaign for a third term in Congress. But instead of getting a warm reception, Ross faced frustrated attendees who had tough questions regarding his stance on the minimum wage. Ross struggled to defend himself, telling his audience that when it came to raising the minimum wage, “It’s just not right.”
One of the attendees was Shaneeka Rainer, an Arby’s employee who has been with the fast-food chain for a decade. In his 10 years of work, he has only received a raise once, and it was federally mandated. In 2007, Rainer’s hourly wage rose to $7.25, where it has remained for the past seven years. But due to inflation and a faltering economy, $7.25 is worth 8 percent less today than it was five years ago.
According to Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin (R), and what seems like the rest of the GOP, the minimum wage “only affects high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.” Rainer’s situation, however, proves that theory wrong.
When Rainer pressed Ross about raising the minimum wage, he was assured that such a move “would do more harm to our economy than anything.” Ross corroborated this stance by attempting to give the audience an economics lesson, insisting that “the cost of products, the cost of services are going to go up” if the minimum wage were raised, and asking, “Who’s going to pay for it?” When another audience member volunteered to pay a few more cents on a burger in order to foot the bill, Ross retaliated, saying simply, “It’s not right.
Video is below, via ThinkProgress:
Following the town hall, Rainer told ThinkProgress, “[Ross] doesn’t understand what it’s like.” The congressman certainly didn’t take Rainer up on his offer to walk a mile in his shoes and spend a day at Arby’s, and instead continued to offer an ideological justification for why raising the minimum wage would destroy the American economy.
One company that apparently does not agree with Ross’ take is Disney World, which recently offered to raise its minimum wage to near the levels suggested by the Obama administration. Currently, wages at Disney are largely determined by time spent with the company, with compensation starting at $8.20 per hour for character actors and $14.75 for technicians. Wages are capped, however, at $14.75 and $21.60 respectively for the two positions.
Ross is no stranger to Disney World; he once served as the company’s in-house counsel, where he was responsible for handling workers’ compensation defense matters. Given this background, it comes as little surprise that Ross has developed a knack for avoiding discussions of raises in the workplace.
Rainer, who told Ross that he was “going to work every day busting my butt,” was unable to move his representative, who continued to stand by his claim that raising the minimum wage just wasn’t right, and furthermore, that the U.S. would have a “serious problem” if the government could tell its citizens how much they can be paid. It is unclear how this logic works out, particularly considering that Ross is not “suggesting that we do away with the minimum wage altogether.”
Photo: The All-Nite Images via Flickr