It is time for a pay raise? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

It is time for a pay raise?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

President Barack Obama is pushing a plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

During Tuesday evening's State of the Union Address he said no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.

A petition through Signon.org urges Congress to take similar steps. The petition asks you to pay an extra dime a day for your food costs to help millions of low wage workers increase their pay.

"I think Obama's thinking about me," said Tyress Love, a minimum wage worker who loves the idea. Love earns $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage. Any boost in pay would help keep his bank account out of the red, Love added.

"It adds up, all money adds up to me," he said.

Then, there's an online petition asking to support a Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 an hour over the next three years. So far, the petition collected more than 90,000 signatures to present to Congress.

But, not everyone agrees.

"You know the big Fortune 500 companies, the large companies? I feel it's a concept that's meant for them," said Brother Juniper's General Manager Patrick Koplin of Memphis.

Koplin says their small business pays above minimum wage. While he says this prevents high turnover, he's not in favor of the government serving up regulations.

"The more you try to regulate the actual market, I feel like you end up destroying it in a way, because you're just taking the cost of consumer goods up," he said.

The controversial proposal has small business owners worrying about paying more to employees, while those working for minimum wage would welcome any bump in pay.

For much of the past two years, the president and his aides have worked to shed an image that he was anti-business, to bury his once-upon-a-time dismissal of bankers as "fat cats," to invite corporate and entrepreneurial voices into the White House.

The result was that one of the cogs of the Democratic Party, the organized labor movement, felt left adrift by the president.

No more.

"Working folks shouldn't have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher," Obama said Tuesday as Democrats rose from their seats while most Republicans sat stone-faced.

Whether Obama can win in a divided Congress, where Republicans control the House and Democrats the Senate, remains to be seen. But the president's calculation is clear: If there was a time to deliver on a 2008 campaign promise it is now. And if there was an issue where labor would have his back, this would be it.

"Working people have had their workloads dramatically increased during the economic crisis, while their pay has fallen," Damon Silvers, the director of policy and special counsel at the AFL-CIO, said Tuesday night. "The president spoke tonight about raising wages as a goal of our nation's economic policy - and the labor movement will mobilize behind that goal."

To be sure, the president's proposal is more modest than it was in 2008, when he called for a $9.50 minimum hourly wage by 2011.

"I don't think it would change it too much, maybe 25 cents, or something, in the case of a burger or gallon of milk, inflation is going to always be there," said Brandon Melton of Millington, Tenn.

Since the last time Congress raised the minimum wage, President Obama says 19 states have chosen to bump their respective state minimum wage even higher.

The online petition asks for the tipped minimum wage to go from $2.13 to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
Among those who launched the petition, is the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

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Associated Press reporter Steve Chenevey in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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