Saying a minimum wage hike would be a chief priority if elected, Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes blamed Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell’s personal wealth for his opposition at a rally in Louisville on Tuesday.
“Mitch McConnell wants you to believe that increasing the minimum wage will somehow hurt our economy, increase unemployment (and) cause us to lose jobs,” Grimes told onlookers at a “Raise the Wage” bus tour stop. “I don’t know about you all, but I’m not going to follow the lead of a Washington politician whose net worth is now $25 million and who only wants to lower the wages of hardworking Kentuckians.”
The event was organized by a number of progressive groups leading up to a possible vote on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. It has made stops in several cities as it heads to Washington, D.C. later this week.
“Now I know that we’ve heard what Mitch McConnell has said—it is the last thing he will put his name to. When I’m in the United States Senate, an increase to the minimum wage will be the first thing I put my name to,” said Grimes.
Other speakers at the rally included Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and Louisville Councilwoman Attica Scott, along with many working-class residents who support the idea.
Those in attendance said average Americans deserve better pay to make ends meet.
“No one can tell me that the wages are in touch with inflation. All prices continue to go up but the wages remain the same,” said George Ross, a 35-year-old Louisville worker. “You’re not going to be able to send your daughter or your son to college making $7.25 an hour. I put out a challenge to anyone of these legislators who has anything to do with this to take care of yourself and your family on $7.25, and you’ll see how extremely difficult it is.”
National Democrats have been trumpeting their support for an increase to hourly workers pay ahead of the 2014 elections, as the McConnell campaign reminded reporters this afternoon.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes is continuing her blind allegiance to President Obama and Washington Democrats, despite clear bi-partisan research proving that hiking the minimum wage would cost America up to one million jobs and more than 17,000 here in Kentucky,” said McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has said a $10.10 hourly rate could cost jobs, with estimates ranging from “very slight” to 1 million job losses.
Business owners are split on the issue with 47 percent favoring and 50 percent against such an idea, according to a recent Gallup survey. The same poll found just over a quarter small businesses would reduce their workforce in the face of such a hike.
“Grimes is once again misleading Kentucky’s most vulnerable for her own political gain,” said Moore. “Kentucky needs policies that will create jobs, not destroy them, and re-electing Mitch McConnell and making him Senate Majority Leader is the best way to accomplish that goal.”
Grimes and McConnell are also jousting over their what to do with unemployment insurance.
The Senate is voting on renewing benefits for the long-term unemployed this week after a 10 Republicans voted to end a filibuster.
Under the Democratic-led proposal, over 2 million Americans would see their benefits extended for five months. It would also retroactively pay out to those who lost their benefits when they expired last December.
But in a Senate floor speech, McConnell outlined nearly two dozen GOP jobs-related amendments targeting regulations and the president’s health care law that he says provide better solutions for the economy.
Grimes called on McConnell to support the bill renewing unemployment insurance in a statement, but the GOP leader says Senate Democrats need to adopt some of their ideas if this has a chance of advancing in the Republican-controlled House.
“We know their new ‘agenda’ isn’t serious—that it’s nothing more than an Obamacare distraction strategy,” McConnell said. “And we know this because Democrats actually told us it was created by their campaign committee, that it was designed to appeal to their base. Give some points for candor.”