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Pushing for Minimum Wage Boost, Nader Decries Vacationing Congress

Nader criticized Congress' small number of working days this fall in a letter. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Between Aug. 1 and Nov. 12, the House will have only been in session for eight days — translating to a $788 per hour wage for Speaker John A. Boehner.  

For an Ohio minimum-wage earner who wants to match the sum of that hourly paycheck, he or she will have to work 99 hours.  

That's all according to consumer-rights activist Ralph Nader, who sent a letter to Boehner on Monday stating his grievances. He also said that the average rank-and-file lawmaker will make $614 an hour.  

Lawmakers from both parties point out that just because they aren't in session doesn't mean they aren't working, but Nader said he crunched the numbers to prove a point: House lawmakers make substantially more than the average American, yet work substantially fewer hours .  

And still, Nader bemoans, Republican leadership refuses to allow a vote to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. "While millions of hardworking Americans are working more and more for less and less, you and your House of Representatives seem to have no problem working less and less for more and more," Nader writes.  

He goes on:

"It's time to ask yourself: while you and your colleagues make over $600 per hour of in-session work between August and November this year, do not the hard working low-wage Americans who cook, clean, farm, serve and care for people like you deserve a vote on restoring their minimum wage to its mid-century inflation-adjusted level?"
Nader, for whom raising the minimum wage has become his most recent cause, will probably have more trouble getting the ear of Washington's most powerful Republican than the Democrats who actually serve alongside him.  

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been leading her caucus in a broad assault on the GOP over the past several months for their refusal to support a minimum wage increase. Democrats have held press conferences and engaged in procedural gambits to force floor votes on the issue in moves designed to draw a contrast between the two parties ahead of the midterm elections.  

Republicans have consistently countered that raising the wage is not economically viable or advisable, an argument that was only bolstered by a Congressional Budget Office report from February showing that boosting the federal hourly income would result in lost jobs.  

“This report confirms what we’ve long known: while helping some, mandating higher wages has real costs, including fewer people working,” said a spokesman for Boehner at the time. “With unemployment Americans’ top concern, our focus should be creating — not destroying — jobs for those who need them most.”  

Nader's full letter:

September 22, 2014 Dear Speaker Boehner, While millions of hardworking Americans are working more and more for less and less, you and your House of Representatives seem to have no problem working less and less for more and more. If a mother of one in Butler County, Ohio ­­ your home county ­­ working at the Ohio minimum wage ($7.95 per hour) wanted to make a living wage ­­ according to MIT’s Living Calculator for the county ­­ she would have to work 88 hours a week, which adds up to a little over 12 hours of work per day, 7 days a week. You once defended the placement of Ten Commandments on public property. If this mother wanted to obey the Fourth Commandment ­­ “Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep it Holy” ­­ by not working one day a week, she would have to work over 14 hours per day, leaving her with only two hours left to spend with her child, given eight hours of sleep. For millions of Americans, the fair deal of eight hours of work, eight hours of rest, and eight hours of discretionary time has been broken. Meanwhile, the work schedule of you and your fellow Representatives cannot be more different. You took a month in August off, as well as the first week in September. Last week you worked a four day week to start the month and then another four in the second week, and then cancelled a four day session that was set to begin on September 29. As one count pointed out, over the course of 103 days between the start of August and the middle of November, you will have been in session for eight days. You are out of control. Give a listen to Republican Rep. David Jolly: “I believe in the radical notion that Congress should work. Congress should govern. And Congress should work more, not less ... By increasing the days that we are in session, I believe we will create an environment where Republicans, Democrats and Independents can work together, substantively, thoroughly, and with great deliberation. We will create a Congress that works.” (http://1.usa.gov/1obUcMi) Congresspersons are paid $174,000 a year, meaning that your pro­rated salary for 103 days of the year is $49,101. Presuming a 10­ hour work day during those eight hard days of work in September, you earned the following hourly wage: $614 per hour. That mother of one making the Ohio minimum wage of $7.95 in Butler County would have to work 77 hours to make the $614 hourly wage for your colleagues during your September House session. (This is all without mentioning that specifically you, as Speaker of the House, make $223,500 a year, meaning you make $63,070 during this 103­day period this fall: a $788 per hour wage for your eight days in session, which would take the Butler County mother of one working minimum wage 99 hours of work to catch up to your earnings for one hour of work.) If the 1968 minimum wage kept pace with inflation, it would be $10.92 per hour, over three dollars higher than the paltry $7.25 per hour level to which Congress has let it erode. Should not hard, full­time work pay at least as much as minimum wage workers made 46 years ago? As twenty-­six Republicans, spearheaded by Rep. Frank LoBiondo, wrote in a 2006 letter to you when you were Majority Leader urging you to raise the minimum wage: “nobody working full time should have to live in poverty.” Yet you continue to prevent even a House floor vote on raising the minimum wage ­­ a cause that is supported by a large majority of Americans. It’s time to ask yourself: while you and your colleagues make over $600 per hour of in­session work between August and November this year, do not the hard working low­wage Americans who cook, clean, farm, serve and care for people like you deserve a vote on restoring their minimum wage to its mid­century inflation­adjusted level? Why don’t you ask the people back in your Congressional District ­­ residents of Troy, Hamilton, Greenville, Tipp City, Eaton, and Springfield, Ohio; residents of a Congressional District where 62,000 workers would receive a raise if you allowed a vote on a minimum wage raise to $10.10; residents of a state where over 527,000 children live with a parent making less than $10.10 ­­ these questions? Sincerely, Ralph Nader  
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