For Immediate Release
The National Coalition for the Homeless Asks Obama to Work for Minimum Wage
WASHINGTON - Back on July 23, 2007, in the "CNN-You Tube Debate" for the 2008 Democratic primary, Pennsylvania citizens Cecilia Smith and Ashanti Wilkins asked the candidates if they would be willing to work for minimum wage if elected President.
Nearly all of the candidates, with Senator Christopher Dodd being the only exception, answered in the affirmative. Then-Senator Barack Obama, soon to take over as the nation's 44th President, responded, "We can afford to work for minimum wage because most folks on this stage have a lot of money.
"We don't have Mitt Romney money," Obama continued, "but we could afford to do it for a few years."
The National Coalition for the Homeless, the nation's oldest national homeless advocacy organization, recently wrote a letter to President-elect Barack Obama encouraging him to remain true to these words. While the President of the United States traditionally earns a salary of $400,000 per year, NCH asks Obama to donate $386, 376 earnings (past his 40 hour per week 52 week annual minimum wage income) to organizations that help bring an end to homelessness, reduce the number of Americans living in poverty, or provide health care to the nation's most vulnerable populations.
The current federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour, a rate insufficient to ensure that working individuals and families can afford decent housing. Meanwhile, the foreclosure crisis continues to increase the number of homeless and precariously-housed Americans, and recent estimates indicate that the unemployment rate will reach 9% by 2010.
Historically, Obama would not be the first American president to turn down his salary. George Washington donated his earnings back to the state, believing that helping the public was payment enough. John F. Kennedy, too, turned down his salary, choosing instead to donate the money to private organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the United Negro College Fund.
NCH believes that such an act of philanthropy by Barack Obama would be consistent with his message of change, and would inspire many other Americans to act selflessly and in the name of the public good. The current economic crisis has highlighted and exacerbated the challenges faced by low-income Americans, and this action by the president would be a fitting expression of solidarity and concern.
NCH, founded in 1982, is a national network of people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists, advocates, service providers, and others committed to a single mission: to end homelessness. Toward this end, NCH engages in public education, policy advocacy, and grassroots organizing.