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Obama revisits urging Congress to raise the minimum wage in his weekly address

For his weekly address released Saturday morning, Feb. 15, 2014 President Barack Obama revisited his executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10 and urged Congress to complete his effort by universally raising the minimum wage for all Americans workers. Most of Obama's weekly address entitled "Calling on Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage" repeated his remarks from earlier in the week when the President signed the executive order, which is part of his economic opportunity program to lift low-income Americans up to the middle class.

President Barack Obama speaks to the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference about the economic opportunity program, Feb. 14, 2014; Obama stressed raising the minimum wage in his remarks
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The President explained that too many Americans have been left behind after the recession although the economy has improved; "Our economy has been growing for four years. Our businesses have created eight and a half million new jobs. But while those at the top are doing better than ever, average wages have barely budged. Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead. And that's been true since long before the recession hit."

The economic opportunity program will make the middle class more accessible to low-income Americans. As President Obama clarified; "That's why we've got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just a fortunate few. We've got to restore opportunity for all - the notion that no matter who you are or how you started out, with hard work and responsibility, you can get ahead in America."

The President again described that the economic opportunity program has four parts, creating good paying jobs, technical job training programs, education initiatives from Pre-K to college, and raising the minimum wage. Obama delineated; "The opportunity agenda I've laid out is built on more new jobs that pay good wages; better training for folks to fill those jobs; a smarter education for our kids; and making sure honest work is rewarded. And the action I took this week will reward hard work for more Americans."

President Obama however, expressed that his executive order is not enough and that he still needs Congress to pass a bill raising the minimum wage for all workers. The President then announced that in the year since he first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage in his 2013 State of the Union Address "six states have passed laws to raise theirs. More states, cities, counties, and companies are taking steps to join them."

When inflation and cost of living is considered according to President Obama the minimum wage is 20 percent less than that when Republican President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. The President also noted that "An overwhelming majority of Americans support raising a minimum wage." According to a Jan. 8 Quinnipiac University poll, the public supports raising the minimum wage with "71 percent of Americans, including 52 percent of Republicans" want the minimum wage raised.

President Obama recounted that there is a languishing "bill in Congress that would boost America's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour" that Congressional Republicans refuse to pass. The bill proposed to raise the minimum wage was sponsored by two Democrats, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and California Representative George Miller.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV has promised the President that he will put raising the minimum wage to a vote in March. The bill would face opposition in the Republican House of Representative from the Speaker John Boehner, R-OH who has numerous times stated that raising the minimum wage will result in less jobs for the lower income bracket.

The profile for the average minimum wage earner in the U.S. is not a teenager, but "is about 35 years old. Most lower-wage jobs are held by women." The President explained that "raising the minimum wage wouldn't just raise their wages - its effect would lift wages for about 28 million Americans." Obama promised that raising the minimum would not add to the deficit, but will improve the economy; "It would lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and help millions more work their way out of poverty - without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending. It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend - and that means growing the economy for everyone."

President Obama also advocated that the American public should also pressure their elected officials in Congress to raise the minimum wage, stating; "You deserve to know where the people who represent you stand on this. If they don't support raising the federal minimum wage to ten-ten an hour, ask them "why not?" Concluding, the President again attacked the Republican Congress for their unwillingness to pass this legislation; "The opponents of raising folks' wages have deployed the same old arguments for years, and time and again, they've been proven wrong. Let's prove them wrong again, and give America a raise. Let's make opportunity easier to come by for every American who's willing to work for it."

On Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 President Obama spoke to lawmakers at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference, at their three-day annual retreat in Cambridge, Md at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay on the coast. Obama again recounted his the main points of his economic oppportunity program, the executive orders he has already signed for the retirement savings "My RA," to end bias for the long-term joblessing applying for federal jobs, and ConnectED high speed and wireless access for high schools. He also spoke of the health care insurance enrollment achievements.

President Obama told Congressional Democrats that raising the minimum wage is a legislative priority and that signing the executive order this past week; "reminded me of why I'm a Democrat and it reminded me of why I'm so proud of this caucus because you're standing up on behalf of them." Additionally Obama lists equal pay for women, and immigration reform as his other top priorities. Democratic lawmakers vowed to force Republicans into a Congressional vote to raise the minimum wage by starting a "discharg
e petition."

President Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 12, 2014 raising the minimum wage for new contracts for federal workers from $7.25 where it has been since 2009 to $10.10 at an event in the White House's East Room where he was surrounded by workers who would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage. During his remarks the President urged Congress to follow suit and raise the minimum wage for all workers. The President's order will only benefit approximately 2 million workers taking effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and specifically for new and replacement contracts.

The President's plan for increasing the minimum wage according the White House has "three steps" raising the minimum wage initially to $10.10, raise tax credits, and have legislation indexing the minimum wage so it will automatically be raised to meet inflation and the rise in cost of living.

The executive order President Obama signed also raises the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 an hour to $4.90, with a raise each year of 95 cents until as the White House Fact Sheet explains; "it reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage" and if it the tips do not cover the regular minimum wage, "the employer will be required to pay the difference."

The executive order also ensures that all contract workers with disabilities are all guaranteed the new minimum wage and cannot be paid less effectively obliterating a 1938 law where as USA Today explained "employers could pay certain disabled workers subminimum wages." As the President declared; "This principle doesn't apply to some of us. It applies to all of us."


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