Labor Secretary Perez applauds striking fast-food workers

“The strikes are fitting in that they would occur in such close proximity to the March on Washington,” Perez said in his first newspaper interview since taking office last month. “It was a march for economic justice … and one of their demands was better wages.”

Perez, appearing on USA TODAY’s Capital Download video newsmaker series, spoke favorably about a “living wage” bill — passed by the City Council in the District of Columbia and now on Mayor Vincent Gray’s desk — that would require large retailers to pay workers $12.50 an hour, a 50% premium over the city’s minimum wage. Wal-Mart, the target of the bill, warns it won’t go ahead with plans to build three stores in D.C. if the measure becomes law.

“It’s a false choice to say we either have job safety or job growth,” Perez said. “It’s a false choice to suggest that the only way for a business to survive is to make sure workers have low wages and little or no benefits. There are ample models across this country where we’ve demonstrated the contrary.”