What do minimum wage, universal health care, the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, labor unions and school vouchers have in common?
They are all topics Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., touched on to energize the crowd at a political rally Monday in Phoenix.
Edwards, a presidential candidate in 2004, spoke to a group of more than 100 at a rally sponsored by the Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition, which is backing a ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage to $6.75 with annual cost-of-living increases.
“This is not all that complicated,” Edwards said. “In the United States of America, we should not have anybody working full time and still living in poverty.”
Edwards encouraged the high-energy crowd to infuse the Democratic Party with “a backbone and guts,” and to strive every day to eliminate poverty.
He also took several shots at the Republican administration, calling national leaders “immoral” for cutting taxes among the wealthy while refusing to better compensate the poor.
Edwards went on to give a speech covering a broad range of topics, including the war in Iraq.
“This god-awful mess in Iraq has sucked so much of the lifeblood out of this country,” he said to loud applause.
The rally also featured Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., who said the purpose of raising the minimum wage is twofold: Better compensating workers and giving them “some sense of dignity and respect for the job that they do.”
Rebekah Friend, chairwoman of the Minimum Wage Coalition and president of the Arizona AFL-CIO, also spoke about the proposed wage increase in terms of morality.
“Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do,” Friend said. “Let’s be clear: Raising the minimum wage is a moral issue,” she said.
Before the rally, Arizona Republican Party spokesman Garrick Taylor said the minimum wage issue is part of the Democrats’ political strategy to get their voters to show up at the polls. Taylor said he doubts it will work.
“I think it should give entrylevel workers in Arizona cold comfort to know that a multimillionaire like John Edwards says he feels their pain,” he said.
But Arizona Democratic Party executive director David Wade said the real strategy is to get voters to do what elected officials will not — providing fair wages for lowincome workers.
“There is absolutely a political reason behind this,” Wade said.