By SARAH PALERMO
Peter Kapos quietly made a big difference for his employees this year. He decided, back in March, to raise the starting wages of employees at Peter’s Images Unlimited Salon & Day Spa to $10 per hour.
He didn’t raise prices and he didn’t make a big splash about the change.
“It was, I felt, the right thing to do. If everyone would do the same thing that I have done, it’s a win-win situation. If people are happy, they are able to do their job a lot better, and other people like when you have compassion for the people who work for you,” he said.
Yesterday, Rep. Annie Kuster, a Democrat who has served one term in the U.S. House, visited Kapos’s salon to praise his actions and vow to help other workers by working to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour if she’s re-elected.
“People aren’t asking for much, and that’s what I love so much about New Hampshire people,” Kuster said to an enthusiastic crowd of stylists and a handful of reporters.
“They work very hard, and they want to own a home or rent a decent place to live, to try to raise a family one day, try to send their kids to college or some education or training, and retire with some kind of dignity. It’s not too much to ask. It’s the middle-class American dream,” she said.
Kuster is facing state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, a Republican from Salem, in November’s election.
Kuster’s campaign has tried to make the minimum wage an issue in the election, pointing repeatedly to remarks Garcia made on a talk radio show last week.
“I voted against increasing the state minimum wage. It seems to be sort of a petty . . . shortsighted type of little issue that the president’s administration decided to champion to use as a wedge issue,” she said.
“It’s (a) very slight (increase) but the effect would be a huge and catastrophic hit to the job market (to achieve) a trite and meaningless raise in your wage that doesn’t in fact do anything to make you able to afford the cost of living,” she said.
The remark was “insulting to the many Granite Staters who are working hard at their jobs and still struggling to get by on minimum wage salaries,” said Kuster campaign spokeswoman Rosie Hilmer.
On the other side, Garcia’s campaign has been critical of Kuster for favoring events in controlled environments such as Kapos’s salon full of friendly employees, rather than holding joint town hall-style meetings where voters could ask unscreened questions.
The two will appear together at four events this month, including a candidates’ forum at the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce tomorrow.
In new numbers released by the UNH Polling Center last night, 36 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Kuster if the election were held today, 34 percent would vote for Garcia and 28 percent were undecided.
When undecided voters are asked which candidate they lean toward supporting, the race shifts to favor Garcia, 41 percent to 37 percent.