Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader panned President Obama's call to raise the minimum wage as "too little, too late."
The president in his Tuesday State of the Union address pressed economic policies he said would aid the middle class, including a call to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9.
He noted that Obama, after his 2008 presidential victory, had called for raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011.
"He isn't even at the level of his promise in 2008 which was $9.50 by 2011. So now he wants $9 by 2015, who's he kidding? He doesn't care about low-income workers. He never talks about them," Nader said to The Hill.
"He always talks about the middle class. … He turned his back on low-income workers in this country and there are tens of millions of them because he doesn't want to upset the Walmarts and the [National Federation of Independent Business],” Nader continued. “He has no skin in the game and his associates have no skin in the game. They're making big money."
In 2012, a number of House Democrats sought to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, but those measures failed to gain momentum.
GOP lawmakers have expressed skepticism about the move, claiming it would hurt small businesses.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio) on Wednesday rebuffed the president's call.
"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it. At a time when the American people are still asking the question, 'Where are the jobs' — why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?" he said.
Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinFCC needs to help services for the deaf catch up to videoconferencing tech Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa MORE (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, previously proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.80 over three years.
On Wednesday Harkin, responding to Obama's State of the Union address, said the wage increase should be higher than the level proposed by the president.
"I think it ought to be a lot higher. I think it ought to be at least $10.10 an hour by 2016," Harkin said.
In 2012, Nader sent letters to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters MORE (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pressing them to support a minimum wage hike and add it to the Democratic party platform.
Nader said he had once again sent letters to Reid and Pelosi urging them to support a rise in the minimum wage and vowed to use public pressure to force them to act.
"I've got calls in to all the leaders. They don't want to face this issue but I've known a lot of them for a long time and they're going to find, in the April recess, they're going to find some Tea Party-style activity in their town meetings back home," Nader said. "Not Tea Party, Tea Party-style activity."
Nader argued that since Obama is pushing for a minimum wage hike in his second term, Democratic leadership is more likely to support one.
"They kept saying 'we're waiting for Obama,' so at least he's opened the window," Nader said.
Obama is following his address to Congress with a three-day tour to promote his economic policies.
In a speech at an auto parts plant in Asheville, North Carolina on Wednesday Obama continued pushing for an increase in the minimum wage and said his proposals to boost domestic manufacturing would help keep the middle class “thriving.”