By Bera Dunau STAFF WRITER
---- — Local activists associated with the advocacy organization MoveOn.org staged a protest at the Cooperstown district office of Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook yesterday, urging him to support increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
The protesters, who numbered 17, entered the district office around noon, many carrying signs asking Gibson to support a $10.10 minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour.
The protesters were peaceful, and Carol Waller, Gibson’s constituent services representative in Cooperstown, said she was aware that they would be coming. She also offered no comment on the topic of the minimum wage, an action she was instructed to take from the congressman’s Kinderhook office, when she had discussed the impending protest with them. This silence frustrated some of the protesters.
Waller did, however, give the protesters the phone number of Matt Sheehey, a congressional staffer for the congressman. The number was then called by Ann Hager, of Goodyear Lake, who put Sheehey on speakerphone. After some disagreement about being on speaker, Sheehey had a conversation with the protesters about their demand that Gibson support a $10.10 minimum wage, which they claimed the congressman is helping to block.
Sheehey said that the congressman supports increasing the minimum wage, but that he favors increasing it to $9 an hour. The protesters countered, however, by saying that $9 is too low, and not sufficient to cover the cost of essentials like milk and gas.
Sheehey also said that Gibson was not working to block a vote on a $10.10 minimum wage.
Near the end of the conversation which, while spirited, remained civil, Sheehey asked the protesters to leave their names and contact information, saying the congressman would get back to them. After the conversation’s conclusion, 13 of the protesters gave their names, emails, and hometowns to Waller.
“I thought it was less than satisfactory,” said Hager, when asked about Sheehey’s responses. “Spin.”
The protest was organized by Lisa Layton of Laurens. She also said she had a petition with the names of about 1,600 residents of Gibson’s district supporting increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which she said she would deliver to Gibson in person the next time he visited the office. She also said that Gibson is one of 22 congressmen that MoveOn.org is targeting because they are allegedly preventing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from coming to a vote in the house.
“In New York, $9 an hour is not acceptable,” said Layton.
When contacted by The Cooperstown Crier, Gibson offered his thoughts on increasing the minimum wage.
“I do support raising the minimum wage,” Gibson said who confirmed that he did indeed support raising the minimum wage to $9. “I would be able to vote for and vote right now for a $9 minimum wage.”
Gibson also denied being part of any effort to block bringing a $10.10 an hour minimum wage to a vote.
He said, however, that the issue also related to economic growth.
“Ultimately I would like to see people make a lot more than minimum wage,” Gibson said.