Obama touts minimum wage plan at Michigan deli


Andrea Byl, 22, takes an order from President Obama and Rep. Gary Peters. (David Nakamura/The Washington Post)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – President Obama and Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) descended on a local deli here Wednesday to pick up a couple of classic Reuben sandwiches and tout the president’s proposals to raise the federal minimum wage.

Obama stopped at Zingerman’s, a local sandwich shop, to highlight the restaurant’s willingness to pay employees above the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Andrea Byl, 22, a recent University of Michigan graduate, took his order, and told reporters she earns $9 an hour, noting the restaurant owners raised pay recently from $8 an hour.

The president has stumped for a $10.10 minimum wage, and signed an executive order to raise the pay of federal contractors to at least that level. Obama was scheduled to speak about the issue at the University of Michigan on Wednesday afternoon.

“If you pay people well, there’s more money in everybody’s pockets, and everybody does better,” Obama said, while eating his lunch with three local residents.

Peters, who is running for Senate, flew to his home state with Obama on Air Force One. He said he ordered a Reuben to follow Obama’s lead.

“He’s paying,” Peters noted.

“You’re a cheap date,” Obama joked.

The president also decided to forgo the deli’s famed garlic pickles. Even though “I don’t have to kiss anyone,” Obama joked, he was headed to two Democratic Party fundraisers in Chicago on Wednesday evening, so “I have to show some restraint.”

Republicans have opposed the federal minimum wage increase, citing studies that said the move could eliminate some jobs even while raising wages for many workers.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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