- - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Labor Secretary Tom Perez is calling on companies and economists skeptical of minimum wage hikes to listen to the sex shop owners, acupuncturists, and spiritual healers that have joined the Business for a Fair Minimum Wage (BFMW) coalition—a group some members do not recall actually joining.

Perez met with 20 representatives from the BFMW last week and concluded that the $10.10 minimum wage proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) would improve the bottom line for businesses, rather than force layoffs and hour reductions, as many economists and companies have said.

“I learned it’s not just workers who support a federal increase,” Perez wrote in a blog post about the meeting. “What I heard from these business owners is that raising the wage would help their businesses, too, by putting more money in the pockets of those in their communities.”

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The BFMW, which organized the Perez summit, has attracted support from high-profile businessmen, such as Costco CEO and Obama adviser Craig Jelineck. But a Washington Free Beaconreview of the “hundreds” of signatories the coalition has gathered reveals some members that may surprise you.

For example, BFMW’s cause has struck a nerve with a number of new age healers: The federal petition garnered support from a number of homeopaths, spiritual healers, acupuncturists, and yoga instructors.

One of them is Rev. Tama Bell, B.S., B.Msc., a belly dancer, “Metaphysical and Spiritual Healer, Ordained Minister, Energy and Root Worker, Hypnotherapist,” who owns the Spiritual Awareness Center in Poughkeepsie, NY.

However, Bell is unsure how the group obtained her name, let alone her endorsement.

“I don’t remember visiting this site at all. That’s interesting,” Bell said in an interview. “I certainly am for fair minimum wage, so I don’t mind being associated on this page, but I’m just wondering how it got on there.”

Bell does not consider herself a businesswoman. She’s a self-described activist. She accepts barter as payment and often provides free “holistic healthcare” to poor residents in the Poughkeepsie area. She thinks that Harkin’s bill does not go far enough.

“I basically support anyone who wants the min wage to be fair. I personally think $15 would be just barely fair,” she said. “I never signed it.”

Rev. Bell later called back to clarify that she “never signed it,” adding, “I did some digging and found out the Washington Free Beaconreports from a conservative position … if you contact me again I will call the FBI.”

BFMW spokesman Bob Keener said it is “entirely possible that someone could sign another person up if they knew enough information,” but added that Rev. Bell’s case was an anomaly. Internal records show that her name appeared on the New York State petition in 2012 and again on the federal petition in 2013, he said.

“I’m sure she just forgot, which is typical of people who sign lots of petitions,” Keener said.

In order to join BFMW’s ranks, one is required to provide a name, company, and state. Information such as the number of employees, company website, and reasons for signing the petition are not required to join the group.

The open sign-up process has contributed to other oversights. Some signatories did not provide the group with real names. Helgaleena Healingline, who is listed as the owner of Wisconsin’s The Healing Line, is “the nom de plume of a Reformed Druid of North America living quietly in southern Wisconsin USA.”

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