Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 12, 2014

Fact Check: Eric Cantor, the fry cook and the whopper

(Continued)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 21: Minimum-wage worker Darnell Summers of Milwaukee said he receives $640 a month in take-home pay working at Popeye’s. Summers had been working 40 hours a week, but he said all workers last year were cut back to 28 hours a week. Almost all of what he makes — $550 a month — goes toward rent, he said. “That’s not living,” Summers, 57, said at a Capitol news conference. “I’m able-bodied. I should not have to depend on a Quest (food stamps) card so I can eat when I’m working. All I’m saying is give me a life raft and I’ll take it from there. Otherwise, I’ll keep drowning.”

Fox6 TV, Jan. 21: Fast food and other low-wage workers have staged protests for higher wages. 57-year-old fast food worker Darnell Summers of Milwaukee says the wage hike would keep him afloat. “Keep my head above water so I can breathe, because right now I’m just drowning,” Summers said.

Wisconsin Jobs Now supports the bill and wrote about the bill introduction in a blog item that included photos of Summers speaking and holding a sign saying, “Raise Minimum Wage.”

Wisconsin Jobs Now also issued a press release on the exchange between Summers and Obama with the headline, “Wisconsin Fast Food Striker Asks President Obama About Higher Wages.”

It’s clear to us from Summers’ background and his question that his chief concern is getting a minimum wage law passed.

As for Summers’ reference to the Affordable Care Act being responsible for his cut hours, we should note that the employer mandate hasn’t taken effect yet and won’t until 2015. So it’s not clear why exactly Popeye’s would have cut his hours. On July 2, 2013, the Treasury Department announced that the mandate — which would require large employers to provide health coverage or face penalties — would be delayed until 2015. We tried to contact Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen Inc. to ask whether the health care law was responsible for hours being cut at its fast-food restaurants and franchises. But we did not hear back. We will update this item if we do.

It would have been accurate if Cantor had said the president failed to address or even acknowledge Summers’ mention that his hours have been cut because of the Affordable Care Act. But it’s wrong to say Summers “asked President Obama why his hours were being cut to part-time because of Obamacare.” Summers asked about low wages, and the president answered the question.

Eugene Kiely and Robert Farley for FactCheck.org

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