Monday, September 1 2014, 05:40 PM EDT
Labor Day Reflections on Minimum Wage Debate
Labor day is a time to celebrate the American worker.
"It's our labor day every day. We take care of people." said Jim Alexander, the manager at Jefferson's Restaurant in Downtown Chattanooga.
"When you get in this business, it's just the way it goes," said Alexander, "you work holidays, you work weekends, you get used to it."
Labor Day is also a time to reflect on workers rights and the push and pull of the minimum wage debate.
"Labor day has always been special to us," said Ashley Ford, "I know people Bar-B-Q and do all that kind of stuff, but it really is to celebrate the worker. "
Ford grew up in a union household. Her father is an electrical worker.
"I really think those Union workers paved the way for us to have a good salary for our jobs," said Ford.
Labor day, as we know it today, began in the early 1900's, partially in response to worker strikes in northern cities. The employees wanted more representation and higher wages. It's a similar battle still being fought today.
"It cost a lot to live these days and $7.25 is not a whole lot of money," said Ford.
Earlier this year, a bill to raise federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour was shot down in Congress.
"I really think about nine dollars an hour," said Ford. "It cost a lot to live these days."
13 states have increased their minimum wage from the current $7.25. Georgia has a minimum wage of $5.15. Tennessee doesn't have a state minimum wage, but tends to follow federal guidelines.
"I think the working man ought to get a share of it," said Mark Leffew, a 37 year veteran electrical worker.
Some opponents to raising minimum wage say increasing the pay could force employers to cut or move jobs, but Ford says other countries can't compete with the American worker.
"We're the best country and we have the best workers so I really feel they should give it a chance," said Ford.
By Drew Bollea