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President Obama Pushes for Minimum Wage Hike

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President Obama visited Costco in Lanham Md. to tout his plan for raising the minimum wage.  Photo by Alexis A. Goring

President Obama visited Costco in Lanham Md. to tout his plan for raising the minimum wage. Photo by Alexis A. Goring

Published on: Wednesday, January 29, 2014

By Ashley Westerman, Special to The Sentinel

"Obama Pushes Minimum Wage Hike at Lanham Costco"

Fresh off the heels of his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama traveled just outside the Beltway the very next morning to Prince George’s County where he expanded upon his plan to give America a raise.

Obama spoke Wednesday at the Costco warehouse in Lanham, Md., the first stop of a two-day nation-wide tour. After a tour, the President spoke to a crowd of about 200, where he again promised to issue an executive order in the coming months to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.

“Today the federal minimum wage does not even go as far as it did back in the 1950’s,” said Obama. “And as the cost of living goes up, the value of the minimum wage goes down all the time.”

Obama said too many Americans are working too hard just to get ahead.

 “If you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids,” he said. “If you put in a hard day’s work, you deserve decent pay for it.”

Costco is well-known for its generosity to its employees. Obama said entry level positions such as stock associates and cashiers start at $11.50 an hour, that the average hourly wage is over $20 dollars an hour, not including overtime, and that the company’s benefits don’t stop at the checkout counter but extend down the supply chain.

“Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover,” said Obama. 

 Obama compared Costco CEO Craig Jelinek to carmaker Henry Ford, who decided a century ago that if he paid his assembly line workers enough to purchase the cars they made, everybody wins. 

 “He [Jelinek] knows that Costco is going to do better, all of our businesses do better when customers have more money to spend,” said Obama.

Obama also praised Maryland for being a leader in the fight to raise the minimum wage by being the first state in the nation to pass a state-wide living wage law. And in early January, during his own State of the State Address, Gov. Martin O’Malley pushed for Maryland’s minimum wage to also be raised to $10.10. 

The President also praised Prince George’s County, which recently passed a district minimum wage hike along with Montgomery County and The District, to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour by 2017. 

“While Congress decides whether it’s going to raise the minimum wage or not, people outside of Washington are not waiting for Congress and I’m not either,” said Obama. 

County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) said he was very pleased that President Obama chose Prince George’s County to speak on such a critical issue as the minimum wage.

“As he said, it doesn’t make any sense for people to work full-time and not make a decent living,” he said. 

Baker said workers in Prince George’s County are loving the idea. 

“They may be actually able to stay in their homes and the more they make is good business sense,” said Baker. “The more they make the more they spend, which is great for us.”

Raising the minimum wage, said Obama, is just one of his four concrete proposals for speeding up economic growth, strengthening the middle class and building new opportunities to get into the middle class.

“Number one, we need more new jobs. Number two, we need to train more Americans with the skills they need to fill those jobs. Number three, we need to guarantee every child access to a world-class education. And Number four, let’s make sure hard work pays off,” said Obama.

Obama said it’s time to restore some economy security in a 21st century economy.

“And that means jobs that are more plentiful, skills that are more employable, savings that are more portable, healthcare that’s yours and can’t be canceled if you get sick,” he said. “These are all real, practical, achievable solutions that can help shift the odds back in the favor of working and middle class Americans that haven’t been seeing some of the benefits of the growth that we’ve been seeing over the last four years.”

The President will continue to expand on his ideas for the economy laid out in his sixth State of the Union Address with stops scheduled in Pittsburg, Pa., Milwaukee, Wis., and Nashville, Tenn., over the next two days. 

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