Ralph Nader, the consumer activist and Green-party presidential candidate, will picket in front of Wal-Mart stores in Torrington, Waterbury and Avon Saturday to bring attention to his call to raise the federal minimum wage.
The minimum wage in Connecticut is $8.25, and nationwide, it is $7.25. In President Obama’s State of the Union address, he called for an increase to $9 an hour.
Nader supports a bill that calls for an increase to $10.10 an hour by 2016, and says really, the minimum wage ought to be $10.50, which is the 1968 level, adjusted for inflation.
Nader said there are 30 million workers who make between $7.25 and $10.50, and about 1 million of those work at Wal-Mart, the nation’s biggest private employer.
Nader said he has talked to Wal-Mart executives for a year, arguing they should support a higher minimum wage, and has not gotten a response.
“This kind of informational picketing will push them to make a decision more quickly,” he said. “If they break off it’s harder for others like Target, Kmart and McDonald’s to keep a united front against it before members of Congress.”
Picketing will start at around 11:30 a.m. in Torrington, around 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Waterbury, and around 2:30 in Avon, he said. He said he’s invited a dozen people to demonstrate.
“It’s been the most intransigent anti worker big box chain,” Nader said.
Nader grew up in Winsted, and he said it makes sense to start his publicity pickets in his home state, where he has old friends. Besides, he said, Wal-Mart is profitable with an $8.25 minimum wage in Connecticut, so why can’t they pay more in other states?
Some who oppose an increase in the minimum wage say it will cause employers to hire fewer teenagers for their first jobs, or at the very least, cut the hours of those who make low wages.
Economists say there is also evidence that a higher minimum wage is passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Nader said of those who are paid the minimum wage, “16 percent are teenagers, the rest are working poor adults. That teenage argument, which they use all the time, just doesn’t wash.”
Political observers say the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is not friendly to even the president’s more modest increase proposal, but Nader says that could change if people turned out to town hall meetings around the country.
“If 6,000 people in each Congressional district showed up it would be overwhelming, Congress would be totally jolted, shocked,” he said. “It’s easier than you think.”