As seen widely on the Internet, on July 4, I asked Congressman Bill Young a simple question: Would he support raising the Minimum Wage to support working families. I was shocked when he rudely responded with "Get a job!"
I have worked ALL of my adult life while simultaneously putting myself through school at the University of South Florida. I've worked as a painter, a server, a customer service rep, a barista, and a landscaper always making close to minimum wage.
After earning my Bachelor's degree I entered the worst job market this country has seen since the Great Depression. With little chance of ever getting ahead making minimum wage, I took a chance and started my own business, Edible Gardens, in hopes of carving out a niche in the local economy and living the American dream.
I was offended by Congressman Young's remark.
Did he not understand the question or is he just out of touch with the plight of working Americans who are struggling to get by? Either way, I asked for an apology and got several hundred people to join me through an online petition.
Shockingly, instead of apologizing, Young accused me of "disrupting" his event by asking my Representative a question. This is an absurd and insulting lie and highlights the desperate attempts at damage control Young's campaign is engaged in after the Congressman's inexcusable response to my question.
As the video clearly shows, I was polite, Young clearly was not and avoided the question entirely.
On top of this distraction, Congressman Young and his cronies have tried to damage my reputation by bringing up my events that occurred in my life in the past.
I came from a broken home. I had a mother who was addicted to drugs and died under a bridge when I was a child. As an adolescent, I used alcohol to cope with my problems. I made some mistakes, but learned from them.
After this dark time, I turned my life around. I haven't had a drink in more than five years, and I finished my studies at USF.
I am working hard in my community to make a positive difference. This is why I was especially shocked to be treated so poorly by a public representative whom I respected.
And then to have him lie to the press and say I somehow disrupted a meeting?
How far will Congressman Young go to avoid the issue that hardworking Americans are suffering, because the minimum wage has not kept up with increases to the cost of living?
If the minimum wage kept up with the rate of inflation since 1968, minimum wage workers would be making more than $21,500 a year, not the barely $15,000 they make now.
Bill Young also wants to ignore the fact that since 1980, national productivity has gone up by 80 percent but what we are paid has gone up only 8 percent.
We are working a lot harder, longer and more effectively than we did 30 years ago, but what we're making hasn't kept up.
Of course Young wouldn't know this because he has made more than $8 million (adjusted for inflation), since he was first elected to Congress in 1972. He hasn't had to look for a job in over 40 years!
We are living in an age of unprecedented wage inequality where the folks at the top have seen their incomes increase by more than 400 percent, but the average American family income has actually decreased.
Congressman Young is a career politician who is out of touch with today's economy and the struggles of people like me, and thousands of other his constituents working hard to get by.
His refusal to apologize to low-wage workers in his district is a slap in the face. It is time for him to step down.
Andrew "Pepe" Kovanis