Community members and minimum wage workers gathered at the Levittown Town Center on Tuesday to call for their member of Congress, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick to raise the federal minimum wage.
Low wage workers shared stories of barely making it on the minimum wage and called on Rep. Fitzpatrick to support The Catching up to 1968 Act of 2012 which would raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour.
"I have worked low-wage retail jobs for most of my life and it's tough. I worked hard and so do all the minimum wage workers in these stores. Congressman Fitzpatrick should give working people a break and raise the minimum wage," said Debbie Chrysczanaricz of Bristol Borough.
All across the nation, a broad coalition of groups and activists took to the streets on July 24 -- the third anniversary of the last increase in the minimum wage. The minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009.
Kenneth Langbien, a retired postal worker, spoke about re-entering the workforce because he is finding it hard to pay his bills on his pension alone.
"The cost of living keeping going up, but my wages don't. I make $8 per hour and find it hard to pay my mortgage, taxes, medication and energy bills. The minimum wage should keep up with the rising cost of living," Langbien said.
Through visiting several low wage-paying businesses like Wal-Mart, Subway, Deb and the Dollar Tree, the tour highlighted the struggles of those who are getting by on a wage that has not been raised since 1968, when adjusted for inflation. The group also highlighted the economic benefit for local communities when the work poor have more purchasing power.
"Raising the minimum wage won’t hurt me as a small business owner. Raising the minimum wage will help the economy by putting money back into the hands of consumers who make our economy strong. The stronger the economy is, the more people I can hire," said small business owner Pedro Medrano of Levittown.
A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that raising the minimum wage during periods of high unemployment did not hurt jobs and helped increase consumer demand.
Charles Young of Ottsville, a deli worker at ACME, spoke on the contrast between his pay to those working at the Subway.
"I make a living wage that enabled me to have a good life and raise a family. The people inside that Subway start at minimum wage and could never support a family on that little. These people work hard and deserve fair pay, too," Young said.
Critics of raising the minimum wage said that raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses. A new report by the National Unemployment Law Project titled "Big Business, Corporate Profits, and the Minimum Wage" finds most low-wage workers are actually employed by large, highly-profitable corporations.
Here are some key findings of NELP’s look at the top 50 low-wage employers in the U.S.:
- 92 percent were profitable last year
- 78 percent were profitable for the past 3 years
- 75 percent are earning higher revenue now than before the recession
- 63 percent are earning higher profits now than before the recession
- 63 percent have a higher operating margin (a measure of profitability) now than before the recession
- 73 percent have higher cash holdings now than before the recession
Over the past five years, the top 50 low-wage employers in the U.S. returned a stunning $174 billion to shareholders through dividends and share buy-backs.