Skip to main content

Why GOP should support raising minimum wage

By Andrea Purse
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1602 GMT (0002 HKT)
A poll says most women support raising the minimum wage.
A poll says most women support raising the minimum wage.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Obama recently urged Congress to raise the national minimum wage
  • Andrea Purse: GOP should support this issue, especially if it wants to attract female voters
  • She says raising minimum wage to $10.10 would save $46 billion from the federal coffers
  • Purse: Republicans need to see women as breadwinners and drivers of economic growth

Editor's note: Andrea Purse is the vice president of communications at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a progressive public policy organization.

(CNN) -- President Obama recently gave a speech urging Congress to raise the minimum wage and announced on Wednesday plans to require employers to pay overtime to more salaried employers. The President is certainly doing the right thing for the American public, especially women.

A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University shows that women are huge fans of raising the national minimum wage. Seventy-six percent of women and 65% of men surveyed support it.

Minimum wage is poised to be a driving issue this year. Given how it polls among women, Republicans should seize the chance to enact good policy and good politics with a group of voters they've been alienating.

Andrea Purse
Andrea Purse

According to a CNN/ORC International Poll, 55% of Americans say the GOP doesn't understand women. That number rises to 59% among all women and 64% among women older than 50.

The 2012 election might have been one of the most embarrassing in recent memory for Republicans, who insulted female voters time and again and seemed tone deaf about the challenges that women face. The result is that women ran from the GOP in droves.

The bad news for Republicans is that this voting trend won't change overnight, not as the "party of family values" continues to reject any ounce of family-friendly policy that might help women and their families grow and thrive.

The GOP's policies don't just harken back to the "Mad Men" era; Fred Flintstone could be their architect. They don't really consider women as the powerful economic agents they are.

In large numbers, both House and Senate Republicans voted against restoring the rights of women to challenge fair pay practices when they were curtailed by the Supreme Court. Republicans also blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would provide more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work. Equal pay would not only help the families who depend on female breadwinners, but it would also be a boon for the overall economy by adding $447.6 billion to the GDP.

Failing to raise the minimum wage might be a boondoggle for the current set of Republican lawmakers, in that almost two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women, and women care about this issue deeply.

There should be a lot for conservatives to like in raising the minimum wage. Raising the wage to $10.10 would save $46 billion from the federal coffers in food assistance, an area where Republicans have said they want to find significant savings. That is real savings for those who claim to care about deficits: $4.6 billion in the first year alone.

Republicans would be smart to leave behind minimum wage deniers like Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who have expressed the view that they don't even think we need a minimum wage. These views are out of the mainstream of the American public and threaten to return the American workforce to the dark ages of employee abuse and mistreatment.

The women who earn the minimum wage are not teenagers working the counter at McDonalds; they are caregivers, child care workers and retail workers. Nearly 80% of women who earned at or below the minimum wage in 2012 were 20 years old or older, and just less than 40% were 30 years old or older.

Oftentimes, these are women who are the breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their entire families, so adding to their wages could potentially give them additional buying power, which can help lift the economy overall.

Instead of agreeing to a media friendly set of promises to try harder to court female candidates, and finding the right female elected members to be the outward face of the party, women want Republicans to dig a little deeper to find the real solutions that would make their lives better.

This isn't about using the right buzzwords to not insult women, their bodies, or their place in the family. What would really matter is if Republicans advocated for women where it counts: as breadwinners and drivers of our economic growth.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Andrea Purse.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT