Butterfield: Wage increase needed

Mar 28, 2014
In The News

U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield said last week that wages need to increase for workers since corporate profits are increasing — and so are consumer prices, he said.

“Everything is going up except wages,” Butterfield said in a speech to a group of more than 100 women last Wednesday night at New Oxley Hill Baptist Church. The women gathered for a conference with Pastor Vonner G. Horton on the economic challenges that affect women, especially in low-wealth counties of northeastern North Carolina.

The minimum wage needs to be at least $10 an hour, and wages need to be equitable for women and men, Butterfield said.

Butterfield said something is wrong when black women earn only 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men. The speech also touched on the national debt, the budgeting process and the federal health law known as Obamacare.

In an interview after his speech, Butterfield was asked about remarks that State Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, made in Elizabeth City last week at a 
meeting of the Albemarle Area Association of Realtors. Steinburg, in the midst of a speech about job creation, criticized Butterfield’s practice of making reference to the 1st District as the fourth poorest in the country.

“This business as usual in northeastern North Carolina and just accepting our status as just cellar dwellers — forget it. It’s no more,” Steinburg said. “Every time Congressman G.K. Butterfield comes in, he says, ‘We’re the fourth poorest congressional district in the United States.’

“I mean, for heaven’s sake, that’s a badge of honor? I mean, that’s not a badge of honor,” Steinburg continued. “We don’t want to be the fourth poorest congressional district. We want to absolutely, positively be number one.”

Butterfield declined to comment directly in response to Steinburg’s statement, but stood by his practice of mentioning the district’s economic condition when he speaks at events across the district.

In fact, Butterfield laughed and said the only reason he didn’t make the ‘fourth poorest congressional district’ reference in his speech Wednesday night was that he forgot to.

“It’s a fact, and it shows you how far we have to go,” Butterfield said.

Butterfield also said the region’s economic condition did not happen overnight and did not come about by chance.

“It’s because of neglect by the state and the federal government for years,” Butterfield said.

Butterfield said he does not support American military action in Ukraine, even if Russia fails to honor its pledge not to invade its neighbor.

“I don’t want a military option to be on the table,” Butterfield said.

In his speech, Butterfield urged everyone in the audience to sign up for health insurance by the end of the month in order to meet the deadline in the federal health care law.

During the interview, Butterfield said he won’t run away from his support of the health care law — and he urged Democratic candidates in hotly contested Senate races also to stand by their support of the federal health legislation.

As success stories start to roll in about people who now have health coverage they didn’t previously have, public perception of Obamacare will become much more positive, Butterfield said.

One way the law needs to be improved, Butterfield said, is to increase the reimbursement rate for rural hospitals. Rural hospitals serve a great number of indigent patients and need special consideration, he said.

What’s even more important for rural hospitals is for state lawmakers to reverse course and support the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina under Obamacare, Butterfield said.