U.S. Labor Secretary Visit Highlights Louisville’s Challenges

Stories from low-wage workers were shared with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez Wednesday and many said they support raising the federal minimum wage, but that there also needs to be a more comprehensive plan to truly improve inequity. 

Also sharing in the conversation were small business owners who agreed that the federal minimum wage should be raised, although Perez noted some do believe raising the wage would be a hindrance on operations.

Perez was in Louisville to promote a bill introduced by. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to around $10 an hour. The U.S. Senate could consider the measure soon, he says.

Those in attendance Wednesday told Perez raising the wage won’t fix the current inequity problems that many individuals and families experience.

But Perez says it will give some people a greater chance at opportunity and it may create market pressures that could benefit worker wages.

“Nobody who works a full time job should have to live in poverty. And nobody who works a full time job should have to be making choices about which children can live with them as we heard today from one of our low-wage workers,” he says.

Some who attended the discussion in downtown Louisville said changes need to also happen at other levels of government, like with education and social and health supports. Other said the federal government and local community need to do a better job supporting the pathways that lead to better opportunities.

“We have had a very robust conversation today about providing those career pathways for everybody so that they can graduate into the middle class,” Perez says.

He adds Louisville seems to have good support from businesses, union leaders and elected officials.

When asked what the city’s call to action should be, Perez said to keep sharing experiences with elected leaders and that real change comes from outside Washington D.C. 

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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