Advocates for Working Families Celebrate Minimum Wage Hike

[Concord, NH] Kerri Champagne, of Tilton, a low wageworker once employed by Littleton Peer Support Center, spoke to a crowded room of working family advocates and legislators, in the Merrimack Valley Day Care Service today. She shared her story before key leaders who helped make the increase in the federal and state minimum wage a reality. “This legislation directly affects me both personally and professionally,”said Champagne. “Personally, I was a minimum wage earner and a single parent; professionally 100% of the people I worked with struggle as minimum wage earners.”

Today the federal minimum wage goes up for the first time in ten years-- the longest period without an increase since the minimum wage was enacted in 1938. By 2009, wages for full-time workers here in NH and across the country will rise by over $4,000. “It is great that we are having our celebration in this day care center,” stated Champagne. “It is so hard to find a child care center as a low income parent.” Champagne, who had testified before the NH House for an increase in the state minimum wage continued, “Seeing this bill pass showed me that the little person can be heard when the right people are listening. More private citizens need to speak up on the issues that affect their lives personally.”

The minimum wage will rise to $5.85 today, and in 2008 will increase to $6.55, before reaching $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

Jaime Contois , of Working Families Win, said, “3.4 million parents will see an increase in their wages today, and 6.4 million children will see their parents' income go up. We need to realize that minimum wage workers are supporting whole families on these wages. This is a moral issue, how we choose to pay workers for their time so they can afford their basic needs. This is about dignity.”

Don Brueggemann, Manager of Bagel Works in Concord, talked about the ways an increase in the minimum wage is good for business, good for the economy, and good for our communities.

In NH, over 26,000 people will see a wage increase in the next twoyears. They work in retail, social, health and educational services, food, accommodation and recreation and manufacturing. These industries account for over 2/3 of all full-time workers at or near the minimum wage, according to a report by Dr. Ross Gittell, James R. Carter Professor at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics, University of New Hampshire, Durham,NH.

Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter and Congressman Paul Hodes, both co-sponsors of the law that went into effect today, sent staff who issued statements on their behalf. Several sponsors and supporters of the state minimum wage increase were also on hand, including Speaker of the State House Terie Norelli, Representatives Johnson, Brueggemann, Brunelle, and former Rep.Sandy Keans.