The star and the senator team up to push for an increase in the national minimum wage

By Lisa Ingrassia and Macon Morehouse
Updated April 30, 2004 09:00 AM
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Ben Affleck, who pulled in a reported $10 million for Jersey Girl, is making a little bit more than his dish-washing days. But the actor joined Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to help push for a $1.85 raise in the minimum wage, PEOPLE reports.

“Perhaps the senator saw my movie Gigli last fall and figured that I might be soon working for minimum wage myself, so it was in my naked self-interest to show up here,” joked Affleck, who met Kennedy four years ago at a rally for to raise the pay of janitors and other low-wage workers at Harvard.

Sounding more serious, Affleck, 31, added: “My father and stepmother worked (at Harvard) as janitors. I know firsthand what a struggle it was for them to try to make ends meet.”

Before his movie career kicked in, Affleck worked washing dishes and as a waiter. “It wasn’t easy,” the star told PEOPLE.

Said Kennedy, 72: “He has never forgotten where he came from.” The senator added that Affleck offered to lend his clout to the minimum-wage issue whenever he it’s needed. It is Kennedy’s hope that legislation is passed this year to raise the wage from its current $5.15 an hour to $7 an hour.

“If Senator Kennedy says so, I fully expect it to happen,” Affleck said.

When the two celebrities first walked into the Capitol’s ornate Lyndon B. Johnson room, Kennedy caught sight of the reporters and TV crews, and quipped: “Where were all of you last time we had a minimum-wage press conference?”

Affleck – looking clean-shaven, his hair gelled, and wearing a navy suit, blue shirt and silver tie – was even offered a tour of the Capitol by one woman in the crowd … an invitation that caused 8th-term Democrat Kennedy to pout, because he’s never gotten one.

“That’s because they think you were there when they built the Senate,” Affleck told him.