President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have made increasing the federal minimum wage one of their marquee issues during campaign appearances leading up to the 2014 elections. After pushing for an increase to $9.00/hour up through 2013, the president moved the bar up to $10.10/hour in his 2014 State of the Union Address. Now, on Monday, the White House enlisted Paul Saginaw, the co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the cause. According to Saginaw, "the right to conduct business is earned by being a good corporate citizen," which, in this case, means supporting the president's minimum wage plan:
My partner, Ari Weinzweig, and I never subscribed to the conservative economic theory of Milton Friedman, that “the business of business is business.” To us, the right to conduct business is earned by being a good corporate citizen — by producing products and delivering services responsibly, hiring responsibly, generating profits responsibly, and finally, sharing profits with those who help produce them and with the wider community from which the revenues are drawn...
For more than three decades, our successful businesses have been profitable but never by underpaying our employees or withholding benefits. In fact, my 17 partners and I have always paid wages above the federal minimum and offered company-subsidized health care and paid time off.
Saginaw takes some swipes at fellow small business restaurant owners, suggesting they are reaping excessive profits by "shorting their employees", and that now is a good time to "educate 'voters' for ethical employment practices":
I hear many in the restaurant industry say raising menu prices will result in customer loss and diminished profits, but I reject that and question the scale of those profit margins, wondering if the margins are maintained by shorting their employees. Customers have voted with their pocketbooks for locally sourced, organic, and free-range products. Now is a prime time to educate “voters” for ethical employment practices as well.
While Saginaw did not target Republicans in his post, President Obama ratcheted up his attacks against "Washington Republicans" in remarks Sunday in Maryland while promoting the minimum wage increase, telling the crowd that "you know who they’re fighting for, and it ain’t you." He said the GOP is for "millionaires" and not the "folks who clean out the bedpans and folks who make the rooms":
Every time the Republican Party leaders in Washington have had to take a stand on an issue that would help the middle class, what did they say?... They said no. They said no to the minimum wage. They said no to fair pay. Think about that. How are you going to say no to fair pay? Why would you say no to women getting paid the same as men for doing the same jobs? (Applause.) Not only did they say no to helping young people refinance their student loans, they voted to change the rules so that students would pay more on their loans... The only thing they said yes to was another massive tax cut for millionaires. I know that's surprising, but that's what happened. So you know who they’re fighting for, and it ain’t you. It's not you. They’re not -- (laughter.) The same Washington Republicans who blocked a $2.85-an-hour raise for some of the hardest-working folks in America -- the folks who clean out the bedpans and folks who make the rooms and -- they made it clear, if they win, one of the first things they’ll do is change the rules so they can jam tax cuts for the wealthy through Congress one more time.
After the rally in Maryland, President Obama headed to Chicago for two more political events, a Sunday appearance with Democratic governor Pat Quinn and a Monday DNC event at a private residence. The president also cast an early ballot in the Illinois elections before flying back to Washington DC Sunday night.