Obama calls for minimum wage hike

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President Obama on Saturday called on Congress to approve a raise in the federal minimum wage. 

In his weekly address, Obama noted that while the economy continues to recover from the last recession, wages have barely ticked upwards over the past four years.

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“Because even though our economy is growing, and our businesses have created about eight and a half million new jobs over the past four years, average wages have barely budged,” Obama said.

Raising the minimum wage was a major component of Obama’s State of the Union address last month. Right now, it stands at $7.25 per hour. The president and Democrats have proposed raising it to $10.10. 

On the campaign trail this year, Democrats are expected to play up the issue, which is a priority for their allies in labor. Business groups have lobbied against raising the minimum wage, arguing it would raise prices and cost jobs — sentiments echoed by several Republican lawmakers. 

The wage debate has grabbed national attention with both Democrats and Republicans battling over a recent Congressional Budget Office report that said raising the minimum wage would cost 500,000 jobs in 2016. The report also found that a wage hike would raise income for about 16.5 million workers by $31 billion, lifting nearly 1 million people out of poverty.

In his address on Saturday, Obama praised one of the country’s largest retailers, The Gap, for raising its employees’ wages this year. Further, the president noted that he signed an executive order that would require federal contractors to pay their workers at least $10.10 per hour.

“Raising Americans’ wages isn’t just a good deed; it’s good business and good for our economy. It helps reduce turnover, it boosts productivity, and it gives folks some more money to spend at local businesses,” Obama said.

The president said Congress can do more by raising the federal minimum wage for all workers but Republicans are stalling legislation that would hike it up.

“Right now, there’s a bill before Congress that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. That’s easy to remember – ‘ten-ten,’” Obama said. “But even though a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans across the country support raising the minimum wage, Republicans in Congress don’t want to give it a vote.” 

Obama called on lawmakers to pass the bill.

“Hardworking Americans deserve better than ‘no.’ Let’s tell Congress to say ‘yes.’ Pass that bill. Give America a raise. Because here in America, no one who works hard should have to live in poverty — and everyone who works hard should have a chance to get ahead,” Obama said.