US & Canada

President Obama tours to call for minimum wage rise

US President Barack Obama is taking his campaign for a minimum wage rise to the streets, visiting local businesses after his State of the Union address.

Mr Obama travelled to a Maryland Costco store and a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, steel plant.

The visits promote a proposed national minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour (£6.09) over the current $7.25.

He said on Tuesday he would issue an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal employees.

"If you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids," Mr Obama told Costco employees on Wednesday.

Costco workers are said to earn at least $11.50 an hour, far above the current national minimum wage Mr Obama has asked a gridlocked Congress to increase.

'Expand opportunity'

On Thursday, Mr Obama plans to visit a General Electric facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and speak at a high school in Nashville, Tennessee, to promote measures outlined in his national address.

"It's time to give America a raise," Mr Obama told members of Congress on Tuesday night, pledging to circumvent their partisan politics through the use of executive orders.

"Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do," he said, noting that inequality has deepened and upward mobility stalled.

Among his planned proposals is a new savings programme aimed at employees without retirement plans.

The pilot programme - involving "starter" accounts which let employees save and withdraw funds without paying additional taxes - will reportedly be available by the end of the year.

Mr Obama was scheduled to visit a US Steel Corporation plant on Wednesday along with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to tout the action.

With just three years left in office, Mr Obama faces falling approval ratings and determined opposition from the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives and has the numbers in the Senate to block his agenda.

House Speaker John Boehner has warned that increasing the federal minimum wage would cost jobs.

Following Mr Obama's nationwide speech, Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers called on him to take action "by empowering people, not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes and fewer jobs".

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