While the President is on the road promoting his State Of The Union agenda, his Labor Secretary Thomas Perez did the same with a visit to a local hardware store in Northwest Washington.
It's no accident the Labor Department chose the Ace Hardware on 5th Street Northwest for the media event, because new employees there make $10 an hour – higher than the current D.C. or federal minimum wage and the same amount proposed in legislation endorsed by the President.
During his address Tuesday night, President Obama called on lawmakers to lift the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
“Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here,” he said.
Now, Obama has deployed his Labor Secretary – Thomas Perez – to promote such legislation.
At the Ace Hardware, Perez greeted managers and employees before learning how to mix paint and copy keys.
Promoting the minimum wage hike, Ace Store Manager Brad Johanson-Smith said his employees’ higher wages pay off. “It attracts a better type of employee and it encourages them to give their all and be excellent in their jobs,” he said.
Ace Marketing Manager Courtney Smith agreed. “[The employees] are so eager to just kind of be the best that they can be for our stores, and help the customers,” she said. “In turn, we have to spend less on training because our employee retention is much higher than the industry average.”
But many Republicans say a higher federal minimum wage won't help. In fact, House Speaker John Boehner argues it could hurt, with job cuts for many low-income Americans.
“I used to be an employer,” Boehner said. “When you raise the cost of something, you get less of it.”
Others are skeptical this Congress would tackle this topic, at least during the current session, during an election year.
It's unlikely Democrats can find the 60 votes needed in the Senate. Even if they do, the Republican-run House rejected a similar plan last year.
But Secretary Perez is still hopeful. “It can be done,” Perez said. “And the people want it to be done.”
He continued, “You look at the polling on this. It doesn't matter if you're a red state or a blue state, a Republican, a Democrat or Independent. People support an increase in the minimum wage because they understand that nobody who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty.”