Although more than 75 percent of Americans currently support raising the federal minimum wage, the main obstacle preventing the idea from becoming a reality is the Republican stronghold on the House of Representatives. Unexpectedly, though, some notable conservatives have broken ranks to voice their support for paying America’s lowest paid laborers a fairer rate. Here are four of the surprises:
1. Mitt Romney
The former Republican presidential nominee and well-known rich man contradicted expectations Friday when he declared, “I part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it.”¯ For Romney, it’s not just about it helping average Americans, it’s a winning strategy for his party. He expressed that he hopes the GOP can win back black and Hispanic voters by showing that Republicans are “all about more jobs and better pay.”
Notably, Romney had previously expressed support for an augmented minimum wage… until 2012 when he faced other conservatives in the Republican primaries and caved to pressure to take the party line. His renewed endorsement for a raised minimum wage was accompanied by an announcement that he will not run for president again next term. Clearly it’s easier to say how you really feel when you’re not a politician running for the highest office.
2. Frank DeLuca
While most fast food heads are fighting a minimum wage increase tooth and nail, DeLuca, Subway’s cofounder and CEO, is unpredictably relaxed about the issue. As he explains, he’s already seen the minimum wage go up numerous times throughout his career, so he’s not fazed by it. He considers it acceptable from a business perspective, since the wage rate also applies to his competitors equally. Although you may want to take his words with a grain of salt, given Subway’s frequent wage theft.
“If I were in charge of the government, I would index the minimum wage to inflation so that way everybody knows what they can count on,” DeLuca said. “The employees know they’re going to get increases on a regular basis. The management knows that they’re going to have to pay a little bit more with inflation. It seems much more sensible and fair to me.”
3. Ron Unz
As rare as it is for a conservative to support a minimum wage increase, it’s perhaps even rarer still to see a libertarian endorse government regulation on the free market. Nonetheless, Unz, a software tycoon and prominent libertarian, has taken that unlikely stance, stating, “There are so many very low-wage workers, and we pay for huge social welfare programs for them. Doesn’t it make more sense for employers to pay their workers than the government?”
He also believes that an increase in minimum wage will help tackle illegal immigration, asserting that more Americans would take the jobs people cross the border to perform if they paid better. Unz supports the cause so fully that he even attempted to lead the charge to get a minimum wage increase on the California ballot this year.
4. Rick Santorum
Despite his party’s overwhelming rejection of a minimum wage increase, former presidential hopeful Santorum believes it is time to see a wage hike for the lowest paid workers. Santorum subscribes to the theory that 7 percent of American laborers should receive the minimum rate; currently, only 2 percent receive the lowest wage, leaving them substantially disadvantaged in the modern economy. As such, he feels hiking the minimum wage will make the system a bit more equitable.
“Let’s not make this argument that we’re for the blue-collar guy, but we are against any minimum wage increase ever. It makes no sense,”¯ Santorum said in a rare moment of clarity.