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Minimum wage advances without Congress

Congress sits idle as others increase the minimum wage on their own.
A Gap location in New York City.
But GOP lawmakers aren't just out of step with the American mainstream; they're also sitting idle as much of the country passes them by, unwilling to wait for them to act (and knowing they won't).

The clothing retailer Gap Inc. will raise its minimum hourly rate by next year, a divisive move from other U.S. retailers that have urged legislators to maintain a federal wage of $7.25 an hour. The company will increase the amount to $9 by June and $10 in 2015, CEO Glenn Murphy said on Wednesday. The change will benefit about 65,000 workers.

"To us, this is not a political issue. Our decision to invest in frontline employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over," Murphy said in a statement. The policy will extend to employees at all Gap brands, including Old Navy, Banana Republic, and others.
President Obama soon after issued a statement of his own, "applauding" the company for its move.
The broader push is obviously not limited to one major retailer. States continue to act on their own, as do several cities. The White House, of course, also recently raised the minimum wage for federal contractors.
And according to one report, even Wal-Mart is "looking at supporting an increase in the federal minimum wage, breaking with business and industry groups that oppose such a measure."
In the meantime, opposition to a national increase continues to get organized, as the New York Times reported last week.

Just four blocks from the White House is the headquarters of the Employment Policies Institute, a widely quoted economic research center whose academic reports have repeatedly warned that increasing the minimum wage could be harmful, increasing poverty and unemployment. But something fundamental goes unsaid in the institute's reports: The nonprofit group is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.

Note that the Employment Policies Institute is led by a wealthy Republican p.r. expert named Rick Berman, who has "repeatedly created official-sounding nonprofit groups" to advance the interests of his corporate clients.

[T]he dividing line between the institute and Mr. Berman's firm was difficult to discern during two visits last week to the eighth-floor office at 1090 Vermont Avenue, a building near the White House that is the headquarters for both. The sign at the entrance is for Berman and Company, as the Employment Policies Institute has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman's for-profit advertising firm, instead, "bills" the nonprofit institute for the services his employees provide to the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

And so the fight continues.