Amaya Smith, a media spokesperson for the AFL-CIO, said the group chose its protest site because Jim DeMint, head of the Heritage Foundation and a tea party chieftain, has refused to engage AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka in a debate about the idea of raising the minimum wage for workers to $10.10 an hour.
DeMint was selected because the labor group believes a high profile debate outside of Congress would display the broader ideological contrast at the heart of the issue to the country and the Heritage head, who is one of the country's most prominent tea partiers, has indicated he is in favor of doing away with any federal minimum wage entirely.
"We have challenged Mr. DeMint to a public debate on the minimum wage and he hasn't answered," Smith said.
|A demonstrator lets his sign speak for him|
While some shouted protest cadences - "Hey, hey, ho, ho, puny wages have got to go" - and answered call-and-response chants from leaders with megaphones, others handed message sheets to passersby, urging them to contact their Senators to support Senate Bill 460, the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
"People who work full time should get paid enough to support their families," the handout read. "But full-time workers making the current wage of $7.25 an hour bring in just $15,080 a year before taxes. That's not nearly enough to live on."
"Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will lift up working families and improve their standard of living," the handout added. "And with the extra income, minimum wage workers can spend more, boosting our economy."