President Barack Obama said the success of companies that are paying lower-level employees more than the federal minimum wage stands as a rebuttal to arguments that raising the U.S. standard would cost jobs.
Obama cited companies such as Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST:US) and Gap Inc. (GPS:US) as he pressed lawmakers again to raise the U.S. minimum hourly wage to $10.10 from $7.25. His campaign has hit Republican opposition in Congress, and he’s using a monthlong delay of a Senate vote to generate public support.
“It’s good for business, it’s good for America,” Obama said in an address at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.
Obama was joined by the governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, all supporters of raising the minimum wage.
The push for a higher federal minimum wage has become a centerpiece of Obama’s attempt to frame Democratic Party priorities before the November midterm elections that will decide control of the U.S. House and Senate.
For now, the proposal is stalled in Congress, and states are moving ahead with their own increases. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia had a higher minimum wage than the federal level as of January.
Opponents of Obama’s plan, including House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, and business groups, say that it would lead to a reduction in jobs, hurting those it aims to help. A Congressional Budget Office report last month found raising the rate in three steps as Obama proposes would reduce U.S. jobs by 500,000, or 0.3 percent, while lifting 900,000 people out of poverty.
“We know beyond dispute that raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs for people who need them the most,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner, said in an e-mail. “When folks are still struggling to find work in this economy, why would we make that any harder?”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, late last month postponed a vote on the legislation until the end of this month to organize more support.
Before his remarks in New Britain, Obama, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and the governors stopped for lunch at Cafe Beauregard, a local establishment that pays employees $10 an hour or higher, above Connecticut’s minimum of $8.70.
Obama said the owner told him that was because “he knows what it’s like to work all his life and understands that if people are working hard they shouldn’t be in poverty.”
The minimum wage in Massachusetts is $8 an hour; it’s $8 in Rhode Island and $8.73 in Vermont, according to U.S. Labor Department figures.
Obama declined to answer shouted questions about an inquiry into whether the Central Intelligence Agency improperly monitored staff members of the Senate intelligence committee and about developments in Ukraine.
To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at email@example.com; Victoria Stilwell in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at email@example.com