Obama kicks off State of the Union action with minimum wage push

President Obama used the first stop on his post-2014 State of the Union tour to press Congress to “give America  a raise” by increasing the minimum wage.

Against the backdrop of Costco, the wholesale retailer where Mr. Obama said wages start at $11.50 an hour, Mr. Obama urged states and companies to follow their lead to improve productivity and sales because workers will have more to spend. “It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend…everybody does better,” the president said.

Mr. Obama has promised to pay special attention to income inequality and limited upward mobility this year, starting with issues like increasing the minimum wage that enjoy broad popular support.

A CBS News poll conducted last week found that more than seven in 10 Americans favor raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, the target figure in legislation from Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., that Mr. Obama is supporting.

On Tuesday, the president announced he would raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour. It was a move that quickly drew criticism from Republicans, both for the brash display of executive power and because many say that such a move will push businesses to cut jobs.

"The very people the president purports to help are the ones who are going to be hurt by this," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a press conference Tuesday.

Respondents in the CBS News poll found that just over half of Americans, 54 percent, don’t think that raising the federal minimum wage would reduce the number of jobs available, but four in ten said it would.

Mr. Obama looks likely to lean heavily on public opinion, initiative from business leaders and legislation from state capitols to help his cause.

“Most Americans work and make more than minimum wage, so its interesting that the overwhelming number of Americans support raising the minimum wage,” he said. “It’s not that its necessarily going to effect them personally right now, its that they know, they understand the value behind minimum wage…if you put in a hard day’s work you deserve decent pay for it.”

As the cost of living has increased, the minimum wage has remained stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009, which translates to an effective pay cut for workers who struggle to keep up with rising rents and grocery bills, Mr. Obama said.

He specifically praised Costco CEO Craig Jelinek for the company’s generous wages – the average hourly wage is more than $20, the president said, not including overtime or benefits.

“[Jelinek] knows that Costco is going to do better; all our businesses do better when customers have more money to spend. Craig is a wonderful guy but he’s not in this for the philanthropy,” Mr. Obama said. “He sees that if he’s doing right by Costco’s workers then they can buy that 80-inch TV too.”

10:19:57 some of my ideas I’ll need congress. But America cant just stand still if congress isn’t doing anything. I’m not going to stand still either. Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity…I’m going ot do it with or without congress because the defining project of our time, of our generation is to restore opportunity for everybodyso I’m here at costc today to talk abou the fourth part of the opportunity agenda which is making hard work pay off for every single maerican

10:20:58this first bill tah ti signed was called the lilly ledbetter fair pay act…lilly was in my speech last night

10:21:42 a mom deserves a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent, and a father does too

10:21:52 we’ve got to get rid of some of these workplace policies that belong in mad men

10:22:20 as Americans we understand that some people are going to earn more than other people and we don’t resent thoseu who becuas ethey work hard…they achive incredible success. We want our kids to be successful. Michelle and I sometimes talk…michelle’s dad was a blue collar worker

10:22:49 we didn’t go around when we were going up being jealous…as long as if we were working hard, we could hav enough

10:23:02 americans overwhelmingly agree nobody who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty ad that is why I firmly believe its time to give America a raise****

10:23:26 100 years ago henry ford…henry ford realized he could sell more cars if his workers made enough money to buy the cars…if I pay my workers a good wage they can buy my product, I make more cars, ultimately I’ll make more money

10:24:23 costco CEO TK, he understands this. He feels the same way. He knows that costco is going to do better, all our businesses do better when customers have more money to spend. Craig is a wonderful guy bu the’s not in this for the philanthropy…he sees that if he’s doing right by costco’s workers then they can buy that 80-inch tv too*****

10:25:02 profitable corporatisn like costco see higher wages a smart way to increase productivity and reduce turnover….(stock associates start at 11.50/hour)…the average hourly wage is more than 20 dollars, nto including overtime or benefits, and costco’s commitment to fairness doesn’t stop at the checkout counter, it extends downt he supply chain

10:26:05 you’ve got people like tk who’s been here 27 years because it’s a company looking out for their workers

10:26:44folks who work at costco understand that but there are a lot of americasn who don’t work somewhere elike costco and they are working for wages that don’t go as far as they once did….(1950s)…as the cost of living goes up the value of the minimum wage goes down over tiem.

 10:27:12 just last year alone workers earning the minimum wage got the eequivalent got tk a 200 dollar pay cut…I don’t have to tell you this, you go shopping***** (funny obama sass)

10:27:41 it’s a big deal to a lot of families…I brought a guy out here today who knows a little bit about this, tom perez…when he was gov omalleys labor secretary here in Maryland he helped implement the first statewide living wage law

10:28:15 there are more families in Maryland and across the country…in the year that I first asked congress to raise the federal minimum wage five states have already passed laws to raise theirs

10:29:03 if you want to take the initiative to raise your minimum wage laws…then I’m going ot be right there at your side…while congress deicdes whether it wants to raise the minimum wage or not, people outside of congress are not waiting and iw ill nto either….(federal contractor exec order)

10:29:48  if you cook our troop’s meals, wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty

10:30:12 congress does have to do its part to catch up to the country on this…most Americans work and make more than minimum wage so its interesting that the overwhelming number of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Its not that its necessarily going to effect them personally right now, its that they know, they understand the value behindminimum wage…if you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids…I you put ina hard day’s work you deserve decent pay for it*****

10:31:07 10.10. its easy. It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend. I guarantee you if workers hav ea little more money in their pocket, they’ll spend more ta costoc, and if costco’s seeing more customers, they’ll hire some more folks. Everybody does better. And the thing about it is raising the federal wage doesn’t require new spending…it would help a lot of Americans make ends meet so I need everybody here, everybody who’s going to be watching, tell congress to make this happen. Give America a raise. Making work pay means doing more to help Americans all across this country,but it also means improving the economy because one of the thigns that’s been hoding our economy back is wages and tk that are flat…(consumers nto spending as much, compaies not hiring, etc)

10:32:28 if we want ot make work pay we also have to help americans save for retirement and I’m laso going to be flying to Pittsburgh this afternoon to talk about that

10:33:31 we’ve got to restore some economic security in a 21st century economy and that means jobs that are more plentiful, sills that are more

10:34:25 quote from costco’s founder…he said here’s the thing about the costco story. We did not build our company in a vacuum, we built it in the greatest country on earth…where anyone can make it with hard work, a little luck, and a little help from their neighbors and their country

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.