Letter from Ralph Nader to Congressional Leadership

Senator Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Boehner Speaker of the House
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell,

In your comments after the Republican midterm victories last week, both of you struck a conciliatory tone, pledging to lead your now-bicameral legislative majority in a way that reflects the public sentiment and is open to reaching across the aisle. You would be hard-pressed to find a better chance to turn this rhetoric into reality than the opportunity you have this month to bring a minimum wage raise to a vote in this Congress’ final session.

The midterms results were yet another display of the public sentiment behind a minimum wage raise. On the day of your electoral victory, voters in four states — Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Alaska — checked “Yes” for raises in the minimum wage on the same ballot that they used to elect four new Republicans to the Senate. Their votes match nearly all public opinion polling about the minimum wage, which American workers have witnessed erode from an inflation-adjusted level of $10.92 per hour in 1968 to a miserly level of $7.25 per hour today. The results of a Pew Poll on inequality from the start of the year illustrates this public sentiment: 73% of Americans — including 53% of Republicans and 71% of independents — support increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Republican politicians outside of the Washington echo chamber have gotten the message, too: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum all have acknowledged that it is time for a raise.

What message will it send to voters if your first act of leadership after the midterms is blocking a vote on a popular, bipartisan initiative that would give tens of millions of Americans a raise, signal to American businesses that consumer purchasing power is set to increase, significantly lessen the number of people on public assistance, and show the people who elected you that your Republican caucuses can work across the aisle to get things done for America’s working families? Your prior efforts to deny the public sentiment on the minimum wage from even having a vote on the floor of the House makes most doubt that you will change your tune. But, perhaps you took to heart your own rhetoric that America wants a change in Washington. You have the opportunity to begin that process of change by proactively changing your policy of blocking votes in Congress on minimum wage raises for millions of American families.

We look forward to your response and seeing whether your action in the coming weeks regarding the minimum wage reflects your words about listening to voters. In the meantime, we will be reaching out to members of your House caucus — especially Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who penned a powerful letter to speaker Boehner in 2006 saying that “nobody working full time should have to live in poverty” — to discuss signing a discharge petition to force a vote on a minimum wage raise. It will only take signatures from 23 Republican House members for Rep. Tim Bishop’s petition on HR1010 to ensure what you have blocked for the past years: a vote for a $10.10 minimum wage. We hope your swift action in response to the public sentiment will not necessitate this, but perhaps your members will have to stand up for the will of the majority of Republicans — and the vast majority of Americans — if you will not.


Ralph Nader
Peter Davis

P. O. Box 19312
Washington, D.C. 20036