Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

In context: Gillespie's comments on the minimum wage

Ed Gillespie, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, listens at a fundraiser on June 17.
Ed Gillespie, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, listens at a fundraiser on June 17.

Democrats are assailing GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie for what they say was an out-of-touch portrayal of minimum wage earners.

It all dates back to a May 20 Gillespie appearance in Virginia Beach that was recorded by a Democratic tracker. Gillespie reaffirmed his opposition to efforts to raise the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $10.10. He said states should set minimum wages -- not Uncle Sam.

Gillespie then noted that many minimum wage earners are young people learning the value of a job and the social aspects of joining co-workers for a beer or a softball game during off hours.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and fellow Democrats fired a barrage of news releases and blogs last week branding Gillespie’s comments as insensitive.

"His vision of minimum wage workers participating in recreational sports and drinking is an offensive take on the reality of a minimum wage job, which many Virginia families rely upon to pay the bills, buy groceries and make ends meet," wrote Sara Mason, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia. "We think Ed owes hard working Virginians an apology.

We’re not taking sides in this flap. But we wanted to lay out Gillespie’s full comments on the minimum wage so you could judge them for yourself. Here’s the text of what Gillespie said:

"I don’t support a federally-mandated minimum wage. If the states want to raise their minimum wage as municipalities like New York City, that’s fine. They should be free do that, and they are free to do that, and they do it. Maryland just raised their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Let’s see how their employment compares to Virginia in a couple years.

"States are the laboratories of democracy, that’s the way it ought to be. The federally-mandated minimum wage at $10.10 an hour, we know from the Congressional Budget Office, would kill 500,000 jobs -- half a million jobs.

"And a lot of those jobs are second earners in the family. A lot of them are first-time workers, the first job they’ve ever had. A minimum wage job is where you learn to get to work on time. It’s where you learn the great feeling at the end of a week of getting that paycheck of knowing you gave an honest week’s work. It’s where you learn the social aspects of work. It’s where you play on the work softball team or go out for a beer after work. You know we want to foster that and incentivize work in this country.

"Now, there are a certain percentage, a small percentage, of people who make the minimum wage who are head of households. I think it’s 3 percent. And if those folks need help making ends meet because the minimum wage is not lifting them above the poverty level or creating problems in terms of they can’t make ends meet. We can find a way to help them without destroying their job and the other 97 percent of minimum wage earners’ jobs as well of those 500,000."