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Man told to 'get a job' wants apology from Rep. C.W. Bill Young

4:27 PM, Jul 13, 2012   |    comments
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Rep. CW Bill Young (left) tells a man to "get a job" after being asked about raising the minimum wage.



St. Petersburg, Florida -- The man told to "get a job" when he asked Congressman C.W. Bill Young about increasing the minimum wage is asking for an apology.

The activist is Pepe Kovanis, a former Occupy Tampa member.

At a news conference in St. Petersburg on Friday morning, he said he'd like to sit down with Young to talk about the minimum wage, and during that meeting, he'd also like an apology directed to him and other low-wage workers.

See Also: Bill Young says he "misunderstood the question"

Right now, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. In Florida, it's higher -- $7.67. Still, Kovanis told Young last week that amount's not enough to get by. Their exchange was captured in a YouTube video that's gone viral.

Here's what they said:

Kovanis: [Congressman] Jesse Jackson, Jr. is passing a bill around to increase the minimum wage to 10 bucks an hour. Will you support that?

Young: Probably not.

Kovanis: Ten bucks an hour to give us a living wage?

Young: How about getting a job?

Kovanis: I do have one.

Young: Why do you want that benefit? Get a job.

Kovanis said he owns a startup organic gardening business and -- after expenses and reinvesting in the business, he pays himself $8.50 an hour. He said he wouldn't hire an employee unless he could pay $10 an hour.

Young's Democratic challenger, Jessica Ehrlich, said Young's remark shows the congressman is out of touch.

Congressman Young has not had to get a job himself during the lifetime of many of the people reading this. He was first elected 42 years ago to the U.S. House of Representatives and he's now the longest-serving Republican in Congress.

During that time, he has brought a considerable amount of money from the federal government back to the Pinellas County area he represents.

10 News asked Young about that exchange. He said the question came after a Fourth of July event in a loud venue with a crowd around him. 

"I misunderstood his question," Rep. Young said. "The answer -- the 'no' answer -- would have been the same in either event, because even a 35 percent increase in the minimum wage would destroy many, many small businesses."

Young elaborated to the Tampa Bay Times, saying he may have been frustrated because of the surrounding activists and said he thought he gave Kovanis a legitimate answer.

Here's what Kovanis is concerned about:

On the left is the actual salary you'll make on the national minimum wage -- $7.25 an hour. It's just over $15,000 a year.

On the right is what you'd make if the minimum wage had grown with inflation since 1968. That's when the minimum wage had the most buying power.

The salary with inflation is more than $21,500. That would be an extra $6,500 a year.

And here's the other thing:

If you feel like you're working a lot more than your parents did, but not making much more, you're probably right. Especially if you're in the middle class.

Since 1980, national productivity has gone up 80 percent. But what we're paid has only gone up 8 percent.

So we're all working a lot harder, longer, and more effectively than we did thirty years ago -- but what we're making has not kept up.

In a statement issued Friday, Rep. Young said the following:

"The professional Progressive and Occupy Tampa protestors do not tell you that I have supported minimum wage increases in the past.   But to raise the minimum wage 38 percent in today's fragile and uncertain economy would be difficult for many small businesses.  With the unemployment rate remaining above 8 percent for 41 straight months, we are doing everything we can to put more Americans back to work.  Raising the minimum wage now by 38 percent would simply put more people out of work and increase the unemployment rate.

"I come home to Pinellas County almost every weekend and during Congressional recesses for the purpose of keeping in touch with my constituents.  These meetings, when with owners and managers of small and large businesses, often turn to the subject of raising the minimum wage. They tell me that raising the minimum wage now would cause many of them to reduce their workforce, meaning more unemployment, or close their businesses entirely, causing even greater unemployment.

"It really is too bad that some politicians and professional protestors, who have made this an issue for some immediate attention, would ignore the long term impact of this on America's economy.  Now is not the time to place politics above responsible government and sound economic policies."

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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