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Local labor group seeks minimum-wage boost for OKC workers

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OKLAHOMA CITY – While Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin stated this week at the National Governor’s Association meeting in Washington that she opposes increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, labor activists here in Oklahoma City are preparing to file a petition to raise it to that amount for workers in this city.

Tim O’Connor, with the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation, told Red Dirt Report on Tuesday that they will be holding a press conference at Oklahoma City's City Hall on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. to announce their intentions to file a petition to change the Oklahoma City charter to get the minimum wage up to $10.10 an hour as well as a cost-of-living adjustment for “tipped workers.”

“We expect an interesting response,” O’Connor said, with a slight chuckle.

Oklahoma is a “right-to-work” state and pro-labor and pro-worker initiatives are not overwhelmingly embraced here.

Fallin said she was concerned that raising the minimum wage, as sought by President Barack Obama, would “destroy jobs, and especially small business owners can’t afford to increase their minimum wage.”

Obama, meanwhile, said that is Congress boosted the minimum wage for all American workers, “it would benefit 16 million Americans and boost the nation’s economy.”

It was Obama who issued an executive order recently that decreed that all federal contract workers would get $10.10-per hour.

And while Fallin and other Republican governors downplay the idea of helping the working class get a wage increase, activists here, involved in the political process, offered their insight on the issue and the governor’s dismissal of a higher minimum wage.

“I think it’s typical Mary Fallin,” said Mark Faulk, Democrat candidate for State House District 88.  “She obviously is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the richest corporations in Oklahoma. And I find it immoral that she doesn’t believe that workers working a 40-hours a week deserve to be able to pay their bills and buy food.”

Faulk then shared an example of a woman he met whose car had broken down and she needed  ride to a local pawn shop to sell her children’s video games in order to get some extra money to repair her ailing automobile.

Seeing this, Faulk said, was a “real eye-opener.”

“Anybody who works a 40-hour week deserves to pay their bills, feed their children and not worry about issues like  a minor medical emergency or a car breaking down rendering them homeless,” Faulk said.

The issue of raising the minimum wage is growing increasingly popular among the working class. Socialist Alternative councilwoman Kshama Sawant, recently elected to the Seattle City Council in Washington state, ran on a platform that included raising the minimum wage of Seattle’s workers not just to $10.10-per hour but all the way to $15-per hour.

This issue, pushed by the first socialist Seattle city council member in a century, received widespread support among voters, with polls showing as many as 68 percent of Seattle residents support $15-per hour without exceptions. The popular 15Now.org initiative is gaining attention in Seattle and beyond. 

And while O’Connor admitted to us that “we have to start somewhere,” our research is showing that there is great interest in not just $10.10-per hour increase in the minimum wage, but $15-per hour, as they expect to have in Seattle very soon.

Unions, meanwhile, have yet to push hard on the $15 issue. It is expected that were a $15-per hour minimum wage be advanced in Oklahoma, the Republican Party and Gov. Fallin would do everything to prevent it from happening.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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