Sec. of Labor Toured Sweetgreen, Discussed Raising Minimum Wage

Over salads at sweetgreen in Dupont Circle, the U.S. labor secretary and a congressman from California met to talk about one of the most pressing issues in labor today: A higher minimum wage.

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez and Congressman George Miller met for a discussion about raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. They met at sweetgreen, a D.C.-based chain that pays its full-time employees well above the minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage has been a top priority for President Barack Obama during his second term; he pushed the measure again Saturday in his weekly address. However, the increase has been stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Perez and Miller said sweetgreen is a business that knows a higher wage can help build a strong workforce.

"What they demonstrate is that you don't have to choose, as a business owner, between your workers and your bottom line," said Perez.

In December, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to increase the District's minimum wage from $8.25 to $11.50 by 2016. Perez wants the national wage to follow suit, saying when everyday workers are making more money, it benefits the local economy.

"That's why we need to continue to work and we are working tirelessly  led by the president to raise the minimum wage," he said. "Americans deserve a raise."

Miller, who is the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, agreed that a higher minimum wage is important.

"Cities are recognizing that you can't have a vibrant city if it's built on the backbone of workers, so you have to raise the minimum wage," he said.

At sweetgreen, employees generally start out at $8.50 an hour during training before receiving a wage of at least $9 an hour.

One worker interviewed at the Dupont location, Jake Schostak, says that while the culture and opportunity of the company first caught his eye, his wage is a significant factor in sweetgreen's effectiveness.

"Being offered above a minimum wage stands out," said Schostak. When you're going down the line of jobs, anybody that is willing to pay you an extra buck or two is definitely going to grab your attention."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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