March 5th, 2014
03:49 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama frames minimum wage fight in global terms

New Britain, Connecticut (CNN) - In the midst of managing the nation's response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, President Barack Obama enlisted the help of some fellow executives on Wednesday to continue his fight for an increase in the nation's minimum wage.

To help make his case, Obama put his domestic fight in an international context, making a veiled reference to incidents abroad by characterizing the struggles of protesters around the globe as a search for American-style opportunity.

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"There's been a lot of news about foreign affairs around the world over the last several days, but also for the last couple years, and one of the things you see – a trend you see, it doesn't matter if it's in Central Europe or the Middle East or Africa, individuals want a chance to make it if they try," Obama said, adding that kind of opportunity is precisely what makes the United States so special.

"But we've got some work to do to match up our ideals with the reality that's happening on the ground right now."

Appearing alongside four New England governors here at Central Connecticut State University, Obama praised their work to increase wages on a local level while decrying inaction in Congress for the failure to approve an increase nationwide.

"If we're going to finish the job, Congress has to get on board," the President said, contending that public opinion amongst both political parties is on his side. "The problem is Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage. Now I don't know if that's just because I proposed it, maybe I should say I oppose raising the minimum wage. They'd be for it. That's possible."

All four states represented on stage by their elected leaders – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut – have wage floors higher than the level set by the federal government.

On a conference call Tuesday previewing the President's event, outgoing head of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling said that increasing the nation's minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would help between 24 million and 28 million people, depending on how you calculate it.

"For the President, this is about values; that work should mean you raise your family with dignity," Sperling said. "It's about doing something about reducing economic inequality. It's about ensuring that we have real opportunity and a growing middle class. It's about helping middle-class families get a little more security and making it a little easier for people to move up. And it's just about economic common sense."

Members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation also participated in Tuesday's call and defended the President's selection of their state to host his latest minimum wage sales pitch.

Arguing that Connecticut is "leading the way" when it comes to wages, Rep. Rosa DeLauro pointed to a recent increase in the state's minimum wage from $8.25 to $8.70 per hour at the beginning of 2014, and an increase to $9 an hour scheduled for 2015.

"We in Connecticut should not be punished for doing the right thing when other states are in a race to the bottom by keeping a really artificially low - unconscionably low minimum wage," said Rep. Elizabeth Etsy.

DeLauro acknowledged that passing a nationwide increase in the current Congress will likely be an uphill climb, but argued that doesn't mean she and her colleagues shouldn't keep fighting.

"To turn around and say that we're not going to take it on because there is a political environment that is hostile in some instances to it, then what are we about? Where do our values lie?" DeLauro asked, pointing to public efforts by both Obama and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy as evidence of political momentum.

"You just don't wring your hands and stand at the side of the road," DeLauro said. "You stand your ground and you fight."

After departing Connecticut, Obama heads to the Boston area for two fundraisers Wednesday night on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. The first will take place in Cambridge, where the President will participate in a roundtable discussion with approximately 25 donors. He'll then head to the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter in Boston for a dinner with roughly 70 donors. Tickets for both events range from $5,000 to $20,000 per person.

Filed under: Connecticut • Minimum wage • President Obama • Russia • Ukraine
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. T Howard

    I am sure he wants us ALL to make minimum wage.

    March 5, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    It is the time to raise minimum wage to 12/ an hour. It does not effect anything. Still, we need lot of jobs linked to this minimum wage nonetheless we say we need education. Education will not guarantee decent job, it your job skill. I know lot of graduates work for k'Mart–are they not educated, yes, they are well educated. Still, they work for 7.25 cents hourly. Lot of Harvard graduates are unemployed too. Raise minimum wage. Don't use self-check-outs, please. They hurt these guys.

    March 5, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. Silence DoGood

    Obama from the article: "The problem is Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage. Now I don't know if that's just because I proposed it, maybe I should say I oppose raising the minimum wage. They'd be for it. That's possible."
    I could see that. There have been a number of things (ACA for one) that part of the GOP was for at one time. Now they are against everything Obama. I would bet money there would be GOP move to increase the minimum wage to reduce welfare payouts or something if Obama was against it.

    March 5, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. Stuffitu

    And....remember that you can keep your plan and your doctor, we are going to cut $2,500 off your health care insurance,we'll spend a trillion dollars on shovel ready jobs, I will get to the bottom of this IRS mess, those people in Benghazi were killed because of a video and on and on. Why does this corrupt president keep talking when no one foreign or domestic (except cope addicts, welfare frauds and corrupt unions ) believe him.

    March 5, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. O'drama ya Mama

    Rasing the minimum wage will help only to a point. What needs to be addressed is the skyrocketing costs of living. The gap between minimum wage and costs of living should never have expanded to the point its at.

    March 5, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. Greg In Arkansas

    I have been in the labor force for over 50 years (aka, working for a living) and the Rule has been:

    If the company makes money, it's because "management" did a "good job" and deserves a bonus at the end of the year.

    If the company looses money, it's because "labor" did a "poor job" and should have their pay & benefits cut, while management gets a smaller bonus for trying to correct the problem.
    If this trend continues, workers will not be needed because there will be no demand for the products they used to make...

    March 5, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    "The problem is Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage. Now I don't know if that's just because I proposed it, maybe I should say I oppose raising the minimum wage. They'd be for it. That's possible."
    Try that Mr. President. The trend seems to be that whatever you're for, they're against. Just like hmmmmmm.......The Affordable Care Act.

    March 5, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  8. smith

    @Gurgyl-Put the peace pipe down for a second. The more the min. wage increases the more product prices raise. Example, In the early 90`s a pack of cigs cost about 1.25 and the min wage was 4.25. Now a pack of cigs cost around 4.25 and min. wage is 7.25. Another thing you mentioned was self checkout. Raise the min. wage dramactically and you will see more of those self checkouts. The min. wage has to be raised in phases not some giant increase. Btw, for those who think this will get people off welfare your dreaming because price will raise along with the min.wage.

    March 5, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. doug

    Well..... expect massive job loss, most humans jobs are replaceable with automation the cost involved is or was the only thing keeping this from happening. In all reality this new age of I.A. will make money for labor a thing of the past but i don't think we are ready for it or will adjust well...

    March 5, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. tom l

    When did "minimum wage" = "living wage"?

    March 5, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. ????

    President FoodStamps might want to pay a little more attention to geopolitics, especially since his administration does not have a coherent foreign policy.

    March 5, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. Smitty

    Does Obammy ever get anything done ??? Jobs pivot again ?? closing gitmo ??? Just stay out of business Mr Pres you have no idea what you are doing, just ask Putin after hes done having his way with you.

    March 5, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. i'malib

    I say give everyone something for free. That way, I can pursue my passion (watching TV). I agree with pelosi on this one.

    March 5, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. guest

    I'm in the 40% and proud to stand up for REAL marriage, not this fake "marriage" called perversion. Absolutely revolting.

    March 5, 2014 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |