President Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to ask voters to pressure lawmakers into making their positions known on raising the minimum wage.
The address is a clear sign of the White House’s intention to making raising the wage an issue in the midterm elections.
The White House and most Democrats back raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. A Gallup poll from late last year showed large majorities of Independents and Democrats favor raising the minimum wage, which helps explain the Democratic messaging.
Earlier this week, Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for all employees on future federal contracts. The directive will kick in next year.
Obama said the order was evidence he was doing “everything in my power to expand opportunity for more Americans.”
Labor secretary Thomas Perez told reporters earlier in the week that Obama's order would benefit “hundreds of thousands” of federal workers — but admitted that could be over as many as five years. He added the administration needed to finalize how the order would be implemented to have a “better handle” on exactly how many workers would benefit.
Only a small percentage of the federally contracting workforce is paid less than $10.10 per hour. According to a study by New York University Professor Paul Light, there were 7.6 million contractors working for the federal government in 2005 — a number that has likely increased in the ensuing decade.
In his weekly address, Obama said that raising the wage for all workers would “lift millions of Americans out of poverty and help millions more work their way out of poverty.”
“But to finish the job, Congress needs to act,” he said.
Some Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have opposed the push, arguing it could hurt economic growth.
“There's no question that the minimum wage increase, if not done in conjunction with some kind of incentives for the businesses not to lay off employees are going to dramatically increase unemployment,” McConnell told Fox News earlier this month. “I don't think in this jobless recovery, we ought to be doing things that creates fewer jobs. We ought to be doing things that create more jobs.”