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The Courier-Journal: Grimes: Raising minimum wage would help families


By Alison Lundergan Grimes

The shared belief that if you have the grit to work hard, there should be no ceiling to your potential, is what binds us together as Kentuckians. We are people who reward ingenuity and industry. We celebrate success, and believe in the virtue of a job well done.

But the hard truth today is that far too many families in the commonwealth are struggling to make ends meet. The promise that every Kentuckian has a chance at working their way into the middle class is fading. The rich are getting richer, while many Kentuckians live below the poverty level.

Times may be tough, but I am running for the U.S. Senate because I believe Kentucky’s best days are still ahead of us. It starts with leaders who will start working for Kentucky again. That begins with raising the minimum wage.

President Clinton once said that raising the minimum wage is “pro-work, pro-business and pro-family.” I share his view and have made clear since entering the race, we must raise the minimum wage for all Kentuckians to strengthen the middle class and help our people — including over 250,000 Kentucky women — provide for their families and put food on the table.

Those against raising Kentuckians’ wages, including my opponent Mitch McConnell, defend the status quo by falsely claiming that it would cost the economy jobs. But taking a step back and looking at the facts — a very different picture is presented. Historically, raising the minimum wage has created jobs and boosted the economy. This time, economists who have studied this issue at length have found that increasing the minimum wage now will cut unemployment again and once more create jobs.

Indeed, the nonpartisan Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP) released a report just last year detailing the economic benefit that raising the minimum wage would have. The KCEP found that a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour would create 2,200 jobs right here in Kentucky, boost earnings for hundreds of thousands of hardworking Kentuckians, and grow the commonwealth’s GDP by over $500 million.

Critics also claim that the minimum wage is an issue that solely affects teenagers. In reality, nearly 90 percent of Kentuckians who would see their earnings go up from a minimum wage increase are 20 years of age or older.

Furthermore, nearly 30 percent of those who would benefit from increased wages have children. As the UK Center for Poverty Research notes, minimum wage workers head an increasing number of households today.

What I recognize, and what Mitch McConnell lost sight of long ago, is that these sobering statistics are not just numbers — they are the stories of our family members, friends and neighbors.

And yet, Mitch McConnell has voted against raising Kentuckians’ wages over 15 times, all the while becoming a multimillionaire in office and voting to give himself taxpayer-funded pay raises. We should find it peculiar that he believes only a pay raise for you will hurt our economy, while a pay raise for himself is perfectly acceptable. The people of Kentucky will not accept a Washington politician worth over $20 million declaring that a wage of $10.10 an hour is going to hurt our economy.

Raising the minimum wage is a win-win policy, and employers of all sizes agree that giving their employees a livable wage is good for business. I applaud the University of Louisville’s leadership in raising wages for its employees and hope that other institutions follow U of L’s lead.

Private-sector leaders, including Gap Inc. and Costco, have independently raised wages for their workers, including many Kentuckians right here in the commonwealth.

Furthermore, recent polling shows that a majority of small business owners support increasing the minimum wage. Employers recognize that with higher earnings, hardworking employees will spend more money in our communities and help the economy grow.

Fair wages are a bridge from poverty to the middle class. The commonwealth’s hardworking men and women deserve a U.S. senator who will help increase families’ earnings, and in turn, fuel our local economies.

Rather than advocating for yesterday’s ideas that hold Kentucky back, as Mitch McConnell does, this election is about acting today to build a better tomorrow.

Kentucky cannot afford to fall further behind as Mitch McConnell — the senator of yesterday — and his special interest backers avert their gaze. Increasing the minimum wage is the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, and I will make it my first order of business as the commonwealth’s next United States senator.

Alison Lundergan Grimes is Kentucky secretary of state and a Democratic candidate for U.S. senator.


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