WASHINGTON -- As part of his bid for Congress, Iowan Ravi Patel has circulated a petition urging House Speaker John Boehner (R) to support boosting the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as congressional Democrats have proposed.
"In the wealthiest nation on earth, it is disgraceful that a full-time worker making minimum wage lives below the poverty line," the petition reads.
Patel is one of three Democrats competing to run against Republican Rep. Rod Blum, who currently holds the seat for Iowa's first district. Patel is also the president of his family's hospitality business: Hawkeye Hotels, which has properties in 16 states, flying under the banners of Hampton Inn, Residence Inn, Best Western and Holiday Inn, among other major chains.
Despite Patel's strong words on a $10.10 minimum wage, several Hawkeye properties have been advertising jobs that pay well below that figure. That includes a housekeeping position in West Virginia starting at $8 per hour; a job as a front desk clerk in Texas at $8.25 and a breakfast cook job in Iowa advertised at $8.50 to $9. Those advertisements were placed on Craigslist for Hampton Inn, Best Western and Residence Inn properties, respectively.
An ad for a laundry attendant position at an Iowa Residence Inn says the worker would earn $8.50 per hour, but the pay "could be more if you also did housekeeping."
All the hotels are Hawkeye properties, according to the company's web site.
Norm Sterzenbach, a spokesman for Patel's campaign, told The Huffington Post in an email that there is no discrepancy between Patel's $10.10 position and his company's willingness to pay below it.
"An increase in the federal minimum wage would ensure every business across the economy plays by the same rules. Keeping the minimum wage artificially low penalizes businesses that pay higher labor costs as competitors undercut them," he said. "Passing a livable, national minimum wage will increase wages across the board, even at higher wage jobs, because many of those jobs’ wages are pegged to the minimum wage."
As for Hawkeye's pay, the company's wages are "competitive within the industry," Sterzenbach said. "They are proud of their employees and the work that they do. And if the minimum wage is raised, hard-working people across the industry and the Country will see their wages go up. When Ravi is elected to Congress, he'll fight to make that happen."
To be clear: Paying below $10.10 per hour while calling for a $10.10 minimum wage is not inherently hypocritical. Plenty of low-paying business owners wouldn't mind a minimum wage hike, or would even support one, so long as all comparable employers have to swallow the same increased costs.
But in Patel's case, he's calling the current wage floor "disgraceful" and urging Republicans to lead on the minimum wage. One might ask Patel why he doesn't lead on the issue himself, and make sure that all Hawkeye workers are paid the $10.10 he's advocating for.
"[W]e need a national solution to this problem," Sterzenbach said. "Congress needs to address this. That is why Ravi is running, to address the bigger problems facing our nation."
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