President Obama used his weekly address two days before Labor Day to celebrate workers and prod Congress to increase the $7.25 federal minimum wage.
In Saturday's speech, Obama highlighted some recent economics successes, along with historical changes that he credited to the labor movement.
“Last month, for the first time since 1997, we created more than 200,000 jobs for six straight months. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders worldwide have declared, two years running, that the number one place to invest isn’t China — it’s America.”
The president credited a wide range of policies that benefit workers, including Social Security, Medicare and weekends, to past fights by labor unions.
He said those policies build a stronger middle class, but the middle class would be even stronger if workers could share in economic prosperity.
“Raising the minimum wage would be one of the best ways to give a boost to working families,” he said.
“It would help around 28 million Americans from all walks of life pay the bills, provide for their kids, and spend that money at local businesses. And that grows the economy for everyone.”
Obama put the blame squarely on Congress for failing to raise the minimum wage. So he highlighted state, local and employer efforts instead.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wages and “have experienced higher job growth than the states that haven’t,” he said.
Cities have too, and employers have raised wages “because they know it’s good for business.”
Obama himself acted earlier this year to boost pay for employees of federal contractors. Under a proposed regulation, those companies must pay their workers at least $10.10.
“That’s how America built the greatest middle class the world has ever known,” he said in his speech. “Not by making sure a fortunate few at the top are doing well, but by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead.”