ASHEVILLE, N.C. – President Obama pushed for a higher minimum wage at a reopened manufacturing plant Wednesday because he says Americans who work full time should not be in poverty.
The president followed up his call for the increase from $7.25 to $9 an hour in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address with a trip to North Carolina, attempting to reach voters outside Washington on the plan.
Canadian-based Linamar Corp. opened a former Volvo plant in Asheville that had gone dark and rehired some of its workers. Obama touted it as an example of America attracting jobs from overseas.
He says the key to reviving America’s economy is to bring more jobs to the United States, give Americans the skills they need to perform them and provide those workers with a decent living.
“There’s no magic bullet here, it’s just some common-sense stuff. People still have to work hard,” he said, arguing that just a few structural changes could have an outsized impact. He said he needs Congress to help pass his initiatives.
“It’s not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing,” Obama said. “Our job as Americans is to restore that basic bargain that says if you work hard, if you meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead.
“If you work full time, you shouldn’t be in poverty,” Obama said to applause.
But House Speaker John Boehner was cool to the plan.
“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” he told reporters Wednesday morning. “At a time when the American people are still asking … where are the jobs, why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?”
Linamar produces heavy-duty engine and driveline components. The company has hired 160 workers at the Asheville plant and will add 40 more by the end of the year, Obama said.
The sleeves rolled up on his white dress shirt, Obama stopped to chat with workers at the plant, patting them on the back as he inspected the equipment. He signed some type of large red toolbox and later posed for photos with what appeared to be a few plant managers.
His remarks had all the trappings of a campaign-style rally — the barricades, the platforms and professional lights, and patriotic music drowning out the cheers of a few hundred people who gathered inside the factory to hear him speak.
Obama will make stops Thursday in and Friday in Chicago to continue pushing his second-term agenda outlined in the State of the Union address.
In his bid to boost manufacturing, Obama is launching three “manufacturing innovation institutes” — partnerships among the private sector, the federal government and colleges “to develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs,” according to a White House fact sheet. He is asking Congress to create 15 more institutes.
The proposal is a central element of Obama’s plan to spur manufacturing, which has been a bright spot in the U.S. economy. Manufacturing expanded at a much faster pace in January compared with December.
The White House outlined other steps the administration says it will take to continue improvements in manufacturing, which it says added 500,000 jobs in the past three years after shedding jobs for more than 10 years. Among the steps:
• Reforming the business tax code to end tax breaks to ship jobs overseas.
• Expanding a program to help governors and mayors bring in business investment from around the world.
• Strengthening enforcement of trade laws and taking new steps to open markets in Europe and Asia.