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Obama takes to road to push rights of workers

Tom Lynn/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE — President Obama on Monday renewed his call to raise the federal minimum wage and to protect the right to equal pay for women as the midterm elections come into sight.

In spite of opposition from Republicans, Obama told the crowd of about 6,000 people in Milwaukee at a festival hosted by the local AFL-CIO that his goal is to make sure all Americans can meet simple goals, such as being able to pay their bills and send their children to school.

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“There is no denying the simple truth: America deserves a raise,” he said.

Hailing examples set by employers such as Kentucky State University, whose president took a pay cut to give raises to his lowest-paid workers, Obama said Congress needed to catch up to the businesses and other institutions — as well as 13 states, including Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia — that have raised their minimum wage.

Obama also referred to his executive order in February requiring that federal contractors in 2015 increase their minimum hourly wage to $10.10 from $7.25.

Countering arguments that raising the minimum wage would reduce jobs, Obama said states that had not waited for the federal government to raise their wages had seen more job growth than those that had not raised their wages.

During his brief stop — he was in Milwaukee for about two hours — Obama expressed optimism about the nation’s economic recovery, emphasizing the progress made since the 2008 collapse, which happened about two weeks after he first spoke at this labor festival as a presidential candidate.

‘There is no denying the simple truth: America deserves a raise.’

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He highlighted that nearly 10 million jobs have been added in the past 4½ years and that the unemployment rate has been gradually improving.

“By almost every measure, the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office,” Obama said.

After a summer dominated by grim news at home and abroad, the president on Monday, the unofficial opening of the general election season, tried to refocus attention on the economic policy issues that could help his party. Democrats are fighting to keep control of the Senate in the midterm elections.

Wisconsin has been a battleground for labor unions in recent years. In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a controversial law limiting the collective bargaining rights of public workers, a measure that drew thousands to the state Capitol in protest when it was introduced in 2011.

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