President Obama called on Congress to increase the U.S. federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 per hour and for tying the minimum wage to the cost of living in his February 12 State of the Union Address.
We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day's work with honest wages," stated Obama, noting that a full-time U.S. worker making the $7.25 minimum wage earns only $14,500 a year. "Even with the tax relief we put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line," he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 3.8 million American workers are paid at or below the minimum wage. Households in the bottom 20% of minimum wage or less income earn no more than $20,262 per year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage among all U.S. private sector workers was $19.07 in 2010.
A total of 19 states have adopted minimum wages higher than the $7.25 federal minimum wage since it was last increased in 2009.
"Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour," said the President. "We should be able to get that done."
In perhaps and even bolder proposal, President Obama urged Congress to, for the first time ever, tie the federal minimum wage to the cost of living, so that the minimum wage "finally becomes a wage you can live on."
"In fact, working folks shouldn't have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher," said the President in suggesting that the minimum wage be automatically raised to reflect the cost of living.
Both President Obama and his Republican opponent Gov. George Romney supported tying the minimum wage to the cost of living during the 2012 presidential election campaign.
The President also called on Congress to "finally" pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would force employers to prove that any disparity in men and women's pay is based on job performance, rather than gender discrimination and prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who shared salary details with their coworkers.
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