90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

U.S. Labor Secretary Pushes For Higher Minimum Wage

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez tours the ACE Hardware store on 5th street in Washington DC. He met with managers to discuss their decision to raise the minimum wage for their employees. President Obama is signing an executive order to raise the minimum wage for employees under new federal contracts today. It's part of a larger push by the administration to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. (U.S. Department of Labor/Flickr)

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez tours the ACE Hardware store on 5th street in Washington DC on Jan. 30, 2014. He met with managers to discuss their decision to raise the minimum wage for their employees. President Obama is signing an executive order to raise the minimum wage for employees under new federal contracts today. (U.S. Department of Labor/Flickr)

President Obama is signing an executive order today that will raise the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts.

It’s part of the president’s bigger plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25 for all workers.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has been out on the campaign trail, visiting local businesses to push the president’s plan.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses who can’t afford to pay higher wages, but Perez says he doesn’t buy that argument.

Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks with Secretary Perez about the administration’s push to raise the minimum wage.

Interview Highlights: Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez

On the need to raise the minimum wage

“We’ve seen time and time again that the notion that if you pay a higher wage, you have to somehow hire less people or charge exorbitant [prices]. That’s been debunked by the business models that exist in basically every sector. I think we need to move forward because Americans do need a raise, and the purchasing power of the minimum wage has really decreased as a result of the inflation.”

“It really doesn’t seem right to me that we have industries in which people are working a full time job and living in poverty.”

On the idea that raising the minimum wage is a bad business model

“It’s really interesting to look at business models across the board. Let’s look at the big box business model Costco has demonstrated: that you can pay your workers a decent wage and pay your shareholders a decent return and offer very competitive prices.

“Look at the burger market. Any one of your listeners who has been to the West Coast, who has been to a burger joint called In-N-Out Burger. 6, 700 franchises across the West Coast. Best burgers around. They’ve always paid their workers above the minimum wage, because it was the right thing to do, and they retained their employees, and they have a competitive price.”


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • loyal listener

    Another very biased “interview” that presents only one side of the argument and promotes Obama’s agenda. Thanks for interviewing someone with real world experience, like a small business owner. Oh wait, you didn’t. Since you are funded by the US taxpayers, you have an OBLIGATION to make some attempt to be fair.

    This is another example of Obama governing by decree. Just like a third world dictator. If we had a decent economy, wages would go up on their own. It’s simple supply and demand. Why don’t you ever talk about the effects on wages that would result from legalizing 20 million illegal immigrants???

    I also must point out that Robin clearly does not understand how the earned income tax credit works. I suggest she researches it a bit, and issues a correction of her statements during tomorrow’s show.

    • #loyal listener

      It’s not simple ‘supply and demand’. The labor market is full of inefficiencies and losses associated with changing jobs and searching for jobs and people who just can’t afford to be unemployed for any period of time. The result is that certain jobs can be exploited and paid less than they deserve and the workers have no leverage to improve their situations. The evidence is in the widening gap between rich and poor, as businesses are able to turn bigger profits the shareholders win out but the people at the bottom stay right where they are, they don’t get bumped up because of some supply and demand phenomenon, they just get exploited. It’s time to do something about it.

      • Mike

        There is a very sad ‘supply and demand’ going on: there are 7 billion people on earth. The supply of people (ie cheap labor) is endless.

        • loyal listener

          Yep, and our dear leader wants to bring in millions more of them! That should help wages go up… not!!!!

          But I guess it’s more important to Barry to bring in more third world voters…. shows you how much he really cares about the American workers.

          • Mike

            Yes, immigration may increase local supply, but remember that jobs can chase them to other countries as well.

          • jonathanpulliam

            Especially when your political leaders provide write downs and credits to those out-sourcing the jobs.

        • jonathanpulliam

          You remind me of the computer scientist who prognosticated back in the 1960′s that people already had all of the computing power they would ever need. He was mistaken, and you are too.

      • jonathanpulliam

        You overstate, I think, the degree of scrupulous corporate management’s regard for fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, I’m afraid.

    • Mike

      Note: public broadcasting is no longer supported by tax dollars.

      We do have a decent economy– notice the bubbling stock market. But the stock market is mostly for the wealthy. That suggest that the growth in the economy mostly benefits the wealthy.

      • loyal listener

        That’s an outright lie! NPR still gets taxpayer money!

        Nice try, though.

        • Mike

          I stand corrected: according to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation_for_Public_Broadcasting
          Federal support accounts for 15.5% of public broadcasting stations’ revenues (2012) .
          State and local taxes 21.8%.
          Private support 59.4%.

          • loyal listener

            OK, thank you for saying that. I wouldn’t care so much about their biased reporting on everything if I wasn’t involuntarily having money taken out of my paycheck to support them.

          • Mike

            All reporting is biased– after all, they’re just human beings. All you can do is listen to various news medias (commercial TV, public TV, newspapers, internet, rumors), and take the average, and just hope that the truth is somewhere in between.

          • jonathanpulliam

            You may compare relative degrees of reliability over time. NPR is consistently biased in favor of the nanny state.

          • jonathanpulliam

            Just because YOU were caught fudging the facts in your reporting right here in this thread does not signify that “all reporting is biased”.

      • jonathanpulliam

        If this is a “decent” economy, I’ll eat my hat. Only a very dim bulb conflates a Fed-stimulated market bubble with underlying economic strength. NPR should forego taxpayer dollars, but they prefer to feed at the big-government trough.

  • Mestralle

    Costco chooses to pay their workers more because they value low turnover; they can afford to pay their workers more because they charge $55 to $110 before you even get in the door. The about the implications of forcing all grocery/superstore retailers into this very specific model. I love Costco for certain things, and I’m glad that what they’re doing works for them, but it’s ridiculous to use such a specific niche retailer as an example of how the minimum wage would affect all retailers of similar products..

    • jonathanpulliam

      I choose not to shop at Costco.

  • Mike

    We’ve had a minimum wage for decades, and it’s been raised many times. And yet we still have poverty. Could it be that increasing the minimum wage is followed by (and maybe causes) inflation that nullifies the increase?

    • jonathanpulliam

      The list of politicians calling for increases in the minimum wage is invariably longer than the list of economists calling for the same. One problem is that many marginally-profitable industries which only make a scant, albeit predictable return on capital invested, are rendered definitively un-profitable if wages are arbitrarily increased by fiat. Workers in high value added industries invariably have more negotiating power when it comes time to negotiate wages.

  • twells

    Minimum wage jobs are entry level and should be considered entry level only – anyone who expects to support a family off minimum wage is fooling themselves.

    Also to consider: At a certain wage level, automation will be more cost effective than minimum wage workers. Not all minimum wage jobs can be replaced, but a lot of them can. The flip-side, at least the automation engineers will get more than minimum wage …

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 29 Comment

World Championship Tug-Of-War Is ‘A Thing Of Beauty’

This weekend's competition in Wisconsin is a bit more intense than it was in your grade school gym class.

August 29 Comment

Repelling Mosquitoes With A Natural Sticky Patch

The Kite Patch releases odors that block the bug's carbon dioxide receptors, sending them in another direction.

August 28 Comment

Catching Up With The Polyphonic Spree

The choral rock band out of Dallas, Texas, has been thrilling audiences with its live performances for over a decade.

August 28 5 Comments

‘Enormous’ Growth Of Ocean Garbage Patch

The oceanographer who discovered the floating island of trash in 1997 says he's shocked by how much it's grown.