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'Give America a Raise' tour stops in Columbus, calls for minimum wage increase

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After a morning stop in Cleveland, the "Give America a Raise" bus tour visited Columbus Friday afternoon to garner support for President Obama's initiative to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

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The income of the wealthiest Ohioans has increased 111% over the last 30 years, said Ohio House Representative Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) to a crowd outside the SEIU District 1199 office on Dublin Road. "The rest of us got about an 11% increase in our income. That's an economic situation that doesn't work. It's immoral that we have so many people at the bottom of the income scale who are working hard every day and can't make ends meet," he said.

Foley and Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) introduced Ohio House Bill 502 on Tuesday, which would raise the Ohio minimum wage from $7.95 to $10.10.

One of the keys to strengthening the middle class is closing the gender wage gap, with full-time working women earning 70 percent of what men make for the same work, said Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati). "This is not just hurting women. It's hurting everyone who relies on a woman's earnings."

Tracy Watkins, who earns $8 an hour as a home health care provider in Cleveland, spoke about her struggle to make ends meet while working seven days a week. "Nobody should have to work as hard as Tracy Watkins does, and only make 8 or 9 dollars an hour," said U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "She's taking care of sick people, people in hospice care, bringing comfort to families that are anxious, and she doesn't make a living wage. That's just outrageous."

Americans United for Change organized the 11-state bus tour in partnership with labor organizations including AFSCME, SEIU, AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, the National Employment Law Project, and Jobs with Justice. The tour will end in Washington DC at an event outside the U.S. Capitol on April 3.