During his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama said he plans to raise the minimum wage for workers under federal contracts to $10.10 per hour.
The move, which will be carried out by executive order, is an effort to put pressure on Congress to pass legislation raising the minimum wage for all workers.
Raising the minimum wage was also an important item in the president’s State of the Union speech in 2013. President Obama said then that raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour would offer dignity and opportunity to the 8 million working Americans who still live below the poverty line.
The national minimum wage was last hiked in 2007 when President Bush signed into law a compromise bill from Congress to increase pay in three steps. The federal minimum wage was finally raised to its current $7.25 an hour in 2009.
The last wage hike impacted an estimated 13 million Americans, or about 9 percent of the total workforce.
Minimum wage hikes are getting the maximum push from Democrats in statehouses in more than half of U.S. states. One of those states is Tennessee, where Democrats are outnumbered in the General Assembly by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.
“There’s a lot of people in this state that are making the minimum wage that are voting Republican right now,” Tennessee House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner told the Associated Press in January. “Maybe if they see that they don’t have their best interests in their heart, they might change their minds.”
The AP also reported last week that minimum wage is a perennial issue that has taken on a higher profile amid a growing debate over income inequality. A Quinnipiac University poll in January found 71 percent of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage — including more than half of Republicans polled.
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