WASHINGTON (TIP): For the second straight year, President Obama called for an increase in the national minimum wage during January 28 State of the Union address. Texas Democrats expressed strong support for the proposal.
“This has gained a lot of momentum,” said Rep. Al Green, DHouston. “Every poll that I see indicates that people are for raising the minimum wage. It can make a difference in the lives of people not only at the very bottom in the entry level jobs, but also in the lives of people up the ladder as well, because it tends to raise the other boats as it raises that boat that’s at the very lowest level.”
Conservatives, however, say that raising wages would add more expenses for business owners already struggling to stay afloat. Many Republicans point to studies suggesting that raising the minimum wage will slow job growth. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Obama called for a boost to $10.10, spotlighting a bill by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and Rep. George Miller, DCalif. currently attempting to raise the national minimum wage to that level. The president also announced an executive order to raise the minimum wage paid to federal contractors, to $10.10.
That came with pledges for other executive orders, drawing the ire of conservatives, who called such actions “imperialist.” “Shame on us,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, of Congress’ inability to raise the minimum wage. “The actions that the president is taking are not overbearing or far-reaching. They respond to the outcry of the American people for a decent wage and a decent quality of life.” Texas’ minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum. In 2013, Texas had more minimum wage workers than any other state – 452,000 of the 3.6 million nationwide.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a quarter of all Texas workers- more than 2.5 million- make less than $10 an hour. More than 700,000 workers in the Dallas metro area make around that level, or less. “I believe in a decent living wage,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. She said businesses she’s spoken to in her district are on board with the boost. “They don’t have a problem with $10 an hour. I’ve talked with fast food owners [and] Costco…. They all feel it’s worthy to get the wages up, to get money in circulation so employees can live a decent life.