Obama delivers Labor Day pep talk, renews push for raising minimum wage
MILWAUKEE — President Barack Obama renewed his push for Congress to raise the minimum wage Monday in a buoyant accounting of the economy’s “revving” performance, delivered on behalf of Democrats opening their fall campaigns for the midterm congressional elections.
“America deserves a raise,” he told a union crowd in Milwaukee, vowing to keep a hard sell on Congress in much the way he once courted his wife. “I just wore her down,” he cracked.
“After all unions have done to build and protect working Americans, I know it’s frustrating when people have the gall to blame you for the problems facing working Americans. I know you’ve got some experience with that around here,” Mr. Obama told a raucous crowd. “But you know what? If I were looking for a good job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union. If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union … And if I care about these things, I’d also want more Democrats looking out for me. I’m just saying.”
Timing his push to Labor Day, the traditional start of the autumn campaign, Obama aggressively drew attention to recent economic gains, setting aside past caution on that subject.
“By almost every measure the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office,” he said, rattling off a string of improving economic indicators even while acknowledging not all people are benefiting. “The engines,” he said, “are revving a little louder.”
It was, at least indirectly, a pep talk for Democrats facing tough races in a nation still gripped with economic anxieties.
The emphasis on the minimum wage is designed to draw campaign contrasts with Republicans, many of whom maintain that an increase would hurt small businesses and slow down hiring. No one expects Congress to act on it before the November elections.
Despite the absence of a federal increase, 13 states raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year. Those states have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not raise the wage, providing a counterpoint to a Congressional Budget Office report earlier this year that projected that a higher minimum wage of $10.10 an hour could cost the nation 500,000 jobs.