Santorum Exposed

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The Issue:

Why won’t Rick Santorum help Pennsylvania workers earn a living wage?

  • Rick has repeatedly voted against increasing the minimum wage
  • When he did propose a small increase, he excluded 10 million workers who live on tips, and even tried to end overtime pay beyond the 40 hour work week
  • Just who benefits from that? The owners of big chain restaurants like Outback Steakhouse. And big hourly employers like Wal-Mart. That’s who benefits
  • No wonder Rick took the Wal-Mart corporate jet to Florida for a fancy political fundraiser with Outback Steakhouse executives
  • That was the same trip as Rick’s infamous visit to Terry Schiavo’s hospice when other events had been canceled out of “respect” for the Schiavo family.

Why won’t Rick Santorum help Pennsylvania workers earn a living wage?

Rick Santorum likes to tout his “vision to end urban and rural poverty.” Apparently that “vision” doesn’t include seeing to it that workers can earn a living wage. Let’s take a look at the record:

Santorum has voted to stop increases in the minimum wage six times since 1995, using parliamentary tactics to prevent an actual vote on the issue.

In 1996, Santorum did vote to raise the minimum wage, but only because he was feeling the political heat – rather than the real needs of working people. As the States News Service reported:

“Before the vote, he admitted he would rather not support the increase, but added it was politically inevitable as Democrats and President Clinton have turned raising the minimum wage into their mantra the past few months.”

Nine years later, in March 2005, Santorum voted against an amendment that would have increased the minimum wage by another $2.10 over the course of 28 months.

But feeling the political heat as another election draws near, Santorum tossed his own proposal to increase the minimum wage on the table – but one that would exempt up to 10 million workers from coverage by minimum wage and overtime laws and would even prohibit local and state governments from raising the base pay for employees receiving tips.

As the Economic Policy Institute explained, Santorum’s minimum wage proposal was really a “Trojan Horse” threatening workers -- it’s about as good for working people as Bush’s “Clear Skies” initiative is for our air quality. Here’s why:

So, who’s really inside Santorum’s Trojan horse? (HINT: It ain’t Brad Pitt!)

While the Santorum proposal has its detractors, it also has big supporters. And we do mean BIG. Like, Wal-Mart big.

Remember when Santorum went to Florida to see Terri Schiavo’s parents at Terri’s hospice? Bad enough for a politician to intrude on a family’s personal tragedy—but it gets worse. Of course, Santorum claimed his visit was a detour from the original plan, which was a town hall meeting on Social Security--a town hall that was canceled “out of respect” for the Schiavos.

But as a sign of his “respect,” Santorum went right ahead with the real point of his trip to Florida on a fancy corporate jet: a series of political fundraisers where he collected some $250,000 for his own campaign. That sounds more like a culture of cash rather than a culture of life.

After all, who owned the jet Santorum flew to Florida in? Wal-Mart. And how much do you think a huge company like Wal-Mart stands to gain from Santorum’s proposal that eliminates the 40-hour workweek?

And if you’re hungry for that answer, guess who hosted the Tampa fundraiser? Executives of Outback Steakhouses.

How much could it help their bottom line if Congress passed Santorum’s proposal to bar state and local governments from raising the base pay for employees who depend on tips, like waiters and waitresses?

As the Philadelphia Daily News reports it:

Executives for Outback Steakhouses chain hosted a Florida fund-raiser for GOP Sen. Rick Santorum just days after the Pennsylvanian pushed in the Senate for the donor's pet issue: Blocking higher minimum pay for restaurant workers.

Outback's political action committee gave $5,000 to Santorum's campaign in January and then, according to several reports, company executives threw a March 30 fund-raising luncheon in Tampa for the senator.

In between the initial PAC donation and the Tampa event, where Outback's PAC gave another $3,000 to Santorum's campaign, the senator - who faces a tough re-election battle next year - introduced a sweeping amendment to overhaul federal minimum-wage and overtime law.

Although the Santorum amendment, which was voted down, would have raised the federal minimum wage by $1 to $6.15 an hour, it also contained a little-noticed provision sought by the restaurant industry, and particularly the 70,000-employee Outback chain.

The provision would have barred states and localities from passing laws to raise the minimum base pay for tipped restaurant workers, who currently can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour.

“Follow the money,” is what Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein about the Watergate scandal. Well, it still makes sense to follow the money in Washington. Because when you do, it exposes Rick Santorum as a Senator who’s excelled at putting the interests of Wal-Mart executives ahead of the interests of Pennsylvania workers.