President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Wednesday and praised the state's ongoing effort to raise minimum wage.
Obama addressed a crowd of about 1,400 that included many students. He called for support in raising the state minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.40 by 2017. Democrats in the U.S. Senate are planning a vote for the raise, but Republicans and GOP lawmakers are mostly working to block the wage hike.
Raise Michigan, a coalition of civil rights, faith, labor and community groups, wants voters to decide instead. The organization needs to gather 258,000 valid signatures by late next month to put before the state's legislature a measure that would raise minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017, and automatically increase it with inflation in future years. The minimum wage for tipped employees would gradually increase from $2.65 until it reaches the minimum wage for other workers.
"People in Michigan shouldn't be working full time and still living in poverty," said Ryan Bates, one of the organizers of the Raise Michigan effort.
"The issue resonates deeply. Everyone understands what it means to work hard but not get ahead," Bates said.
If Raise Michigan secures the required number of signatures and state lawmakers do not act on the measure, it would head to a statewide vote in November.
"It would help millions more work their way out of poverty right away," Obama said in his speech.
"It’s easy to remember — 10, 10. It will lift millions of people out of poverty," Obama said.
Nationally, Obama wants to raise the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016.
If the minimum wage were raised, it would raise wages for 28 million people across the nation, including almost one million people in Michigan, the president said.
The president's speech came just one day after the Obama administration received positive news that its Affordable Health Care Act beat expectations for its first year of enrollment. The deadline for participants to enroll for coverage for this year was March 31.
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