U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez came out in strong support for both raising the minimum wage and for eliminating the tipped minimum wage during a press Q&A at the end of his visit to Gold International Machinery with state Senator Gayle Goldin and US Representative David Cicilline on Friday afternoon. The Secretary was enthusiastic about the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage for both workers and the economy.
“I was recently in Seattle on the first day of the effective date of the new minimum wage in Seattle,” said Perez, “the person who stood right next to me, in addition to the mayor that day, was the head of the Seattle Restaurant Association.”
According to Perez, Seattle “has had the highest minimum wage in the country over the last twelve years, and they have no tipped credit.” He added, “If the opponents were correct, then every time you fly to Seattle, you ought to bring a bagged lunch, because all the restaurants should be going out of business.”
Perez also talked about raising the regular minimum wage, saying that while he and President Obama, “don’t pretend to know what the best wage is for the city of Seattle or the state of Rhode Island… we applaud efforts to go as high as possible.”
The secretary added that “as a result of the low minimum wages across the country we’ve seen a consumption deprived recovery in many circles.”
“When you raise the minimum wage, guess what happens?” asked Perez, “If you’re a restaurant, people have more money to spend. When you raise wages, guess what happens? The economy gets better. We consume more things from manufacturers so places like Gold [International Machinery], they see their business go up.”
Here in Rhode Island there are General Assembly bills currently before the Senate and the House to gradually eliminate the tipped minimum wage. There are also bills to raise the regular minimum wage from $9 to $10.10. At hearings held to discuss the bills, representatives from the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, including Chairman Bob Bacon, have opposed any increases in the minimum wage with questionable economics and threats of robots.
Governor Gina Raimondo, who Labor Secretary Perez seemed to like quite a bit based on comments he made earlier in the day, has called on the General Assembly to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. She has yet to publicly support the elimination of the tipped minimum wage.