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Ann Arbor Business Lunch Takes On Minimum Wage Debate

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U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, among those taking part in a working "late lunch" at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor discussing legislation that would raise the minimum wage. (Credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ Newsradio 950)

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, among those taking part in a working “late lunch” at Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor discussing legislation that would raise the minimum wage. (Credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ Newsradio 950)

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ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – It was part working lunch, part politics in Ann Arbor as local leaders met with everyday folks to talk about efforts underway to raise the minimum wage.

Among those on hand at Zingerman’s Deli on Detroit Street was Mike Varney, a college senior working for minimum wage.

“People who are out there working their butt off on a daily basis for $7 an hour just hoping and praying that they can make a little more money to feed their kids or pay their bills. I mean, I feel like a lot of people that oppose this have never had to live through that,” says Varney.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act pending in Congress would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. But at least one congressman, Michigan Democrat John Dingell, believes the opposition could be rooted in a dislike for President Obama.

“Yeah there’s a lot of people running around, they don’t admit it, but they hate him,” says Dingell.

Dingell says he is not sure if passage of the bill to increase the minimum wage will happen this year… but eventually.

“It will happen, but to give you an appraisal of when converts me from a legislator into a prophet. I find that that is a poorly paid, dangerous and unsatisfying job,” says Dingell.

The Federal Fair Minimum Wage Act would raise base salaries nationally from $7.25 an hour, up to $10.10 an hour. Opponents say its passage could actually cause low income wage earners to lose jobs. Democratic State Representative Adam Zemke, of Ann Arbor, who has proposed legislation to raise the minimum wage in the state to $9 an hour, says there’s overwhelming public support to do so.

“Eighty-five percent of Democrats support, sixty-five percent of Independents and fifty percent of Republicans polled support raising the minimum wage. And so, that’s pretty overwhelming support. I think you can safely say overwhelming is a good term to use in this case,” says Zemke.

Despite that support, Zemke says he does not anticipate the bill’s passage in a Republican-controlled state legislature this year.

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