White House to Recognize Living Wage “Champions of Change”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, June 23, the White House will recognize nine individuals from across the country as “White House Champions of Change for the Living Wage.”

These individuals were selected by the White House for their leadership and tireless work to raise wages in their communities.

The President has repeatedly called on Congress to increase the national minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 per hour for nearly seven years. In states, cities and communities nationwide, leaders of all kinds are finding innovative ways to help their neighbors get the raise they need and deserve. Since President Obama’s call to action in 2013, 18 states and the District of Columbia, plus nearly 50 cities and counties have acted on their own.

The program will feature remarks by Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

The event will be live streamed on the White House website at www.whitehouse.gov/live on Thursday, June 23, at 1:30 PM ET. Follow the conversation at #WHChamps.

Laphonza Butler – Los Angeles, California

Originally from the South and a graduate of Jackson State University, Laphonza Butler resides in Los Angeles, California, and serves as Provisional President of the Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, representing over 325,000 California home care and nursing home workers. She also serves as President of SEIU California State Council, which works on behalf of the state’s 700,000 SEIU members. Laphonza had a leading role in negotiating and passing the state’s recent landmark minimum wage law.

Barbara Carr – Flint, Michigan

Barbara Carr has been a home care worker for 15 years, providing essential services for her community’s most vulnerable residents. As a member of the Home Care Fight for $15 National Organizing Committee, Barbara is fighting for a better home care system for everyone – one that pays home care workers enough to provide for their families and delivers quality care for consumers. Barbara works tirelessly to engage her community in the fight for higher wages and a union and quality care. She has led neighborhood canvasses and phone banks to reach other home care workers, who are isolated without a central workplace. Barbara, an Executive Board member at SEIU Healthcare Michigan, has also helped lead her union’s response to the Flint water crisis, focusing on elderly residents who may not understand the full extent of the danger. As an activist and a care provider, Barbara serves her community and inspires home care workers across the country.

Sherry Deutschmann – Nashville, Tennessee

Sherry Stewart Deutschmann is the founder and CEO of LetterLogic, Inc., a $40M company in Nashville, Tennessee that has been praised for prioritizing the needs of the employees.  The company mission is to prove to the world that taking great care of employees ensures customer loyalty and a healthy bottom line. Sherry is an outspoken advocate of increasing the minimum wage, noting that after her company increased the starting wage, the net profit more than doubled. She is a member of the National Women’s Business Council, a group of female business leaders whose role it is to advise the President, Congress, and the Small Business Administration on issues related to access to capital, markets, and networks for female entrepreneurs.  Sherry is also a member of Business for Fair Minimum Wage. 

Isabel Escobar – Chicago, Illinois

Isabel Escobar is a home cleaner in Chicago and a leader on the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign, organizing to earn basic legal protections for home cleaners, nannies, and home care workers across the state. After experiencing wage theft and after she was unable to collect her stolen wages, Isabel contacted the workers’ rights organization Arise Chicago. With support from Arise, she led a campaign to recover the full $10,000 owed to her. She became a fierce domestic worker leader, organizing workers to travel to the Illinois capitol to educate state officials on the need for a Bill of Rights, and acting as a campaign spokesperson. In addition to organizing domestic workers to improve wages and working conditions, she directly trains workers in green cleaning, health and safety, responding to sexual harassment, and workers’ rights. Isabel is an OSHA-certified health and safety ergonomics trainer and a member of the Arise Chicago Board of Directors.

Bruce “Buz” Grossberg – Richmond, VA  

Buz Grossberg is the founder, owner and operator of Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue, which has served the Richmond community for the last 30 years. He knows that paying his workers a living wage and accommodating their schedules is not only good for business — it is also the right thing to do. He understands that paying fair wages attracts a loyal workforce and increases worker productivity. Buz pays his servers $8 an hour plus tips — almost 4 times the tipped minimum wage. He pays his other employees $12 an hour. He has also worked to ensure that all Buz and Ned’s employees are full –time workers, enabling them to qualify for benefits. He believes that the changes run contrary to the current stance of the restaurant and hospitality industry as a whole, but is excited to lead for change.

Doug Hoffman – Birmingham, Alabama

Doug Hoffman is retired from a career in hospital finance with Children’s Hospital of Birmingham, Alabama. Working with his fellow organizers, he initiated a coalition that helped pass an ordinance in Birmingham to raise the minimum wage. Doug wrote several Op-Ed’s in the state newspaper that began the discussion of raising the minimum wage, and helped coordinate demonstrations, press conferences and city council presentations in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Working with state Democratic and Black Caucus legislators, they twice fought off Republican efforts to preempt Birmingham’s minimum wage ordinance until finally thwarted. Outside of his work to raise the minimum wage, Doug has been an activist for Medicaid expansion in Alabama and helped enroll community members in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Kristian Mendoza – Lancaster, California

Kristian ‘Kris’ Mendoza participated as a member of the organizing committee that was successful in winning union recognition with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) at Kinkisharyo International, a rail transit manufacturer. The plant is only recently recovering from double digit unemployment in Los Angeles County. As a result of the committee’s organizing and negotiating successes, hourly wage rates are the highest entry rates in the area. After successful negotiations and contract ratification, the now 300 workers at the plant went from paying 25% of healthcare premium to 0% for accessible healthcare coverage. Kristian is a Marine Veteran and a proud father of two.

Molly Moon Neitzel – Seattle, Washington

Molly Moon Neitzel is the CEO of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream in Seattle and has advocated for progressive business practices and worker rights at the local, state and national levels. With seven shops and 140 employees, Molly has dedicated herself to building a company that is a leader in labor practices. At Molly Moon’s, employees earn starting wages that are above national minimum wage, 100 percent of the health premiums for themselves and their children, and a family leave plan that pays 100 percent of compensation for up to 12 weeks of bonding time for any new mother or father, and 70 percent for other family and medical leave. Molly has lent her support to issues that affect all Seattle and Washington state workers: successfully campaigning for paid safe and sick time in Seattle in 2012 and a minimum wage increase in 2014.

Alia Todd – Asheville, North Carolina

Alia Todd is a longtime restaurant worker and the co-founder of Asheville Sustainable Restaurant Workforce (ASRW), located in Asheville, North Carolina. ASRW is a worker-founded and -funded advocacy group tasked with improving the economic and human rights of restaurant workers through awareness, advocacy and action. Under Alia’s leadership, ASRW builds relationships with workers, business owners and diners in a triangular effort to create better conditions in Asheville’s service-driven, tourist-based economy.  In its first year, ASRW focused on educating workers about their rights in collaboration with the North Carolina Justice Center. Last fall, Alia launched and ran a successful campaign to raise wages of support staff at her long time employer using the worker-powered platform Coworker.org. Alia lives in Asheville with her husband and two children, ages 6 and 3.




Press release


June 22nd, 2016