Economic opportunity, along with immigration and patent reform—issues that figure prominently into the day-to-day operations of restaurants across the country—had a visible role in President Obama’s State of the Union address.
Obama said he’d push policies to “speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity.”
“There are no stronger ‘ladders of opportunity’ in today’s economy than in the restaurant industry,” said Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association President/CEO. “Our essential industry continues to be an industry of opportunity. Restaurants are critical employers that literally train America’s workforce.”
Obama noted the economic benefits of immigration reform and called on Congress to pass reforms this year. The National Restaurant Association, a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, is leading efforts to build support for measures that offer a clear path to legalization for the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers, national use of the E-Verify employment-eligibility verification system, and improved border security that doesn’t interfere with legal travel and tourism.
Obama again voiced his support for a nearly 40 percent increase in the $7.25 federal minimum wage, promising to issue an executive order in coming weeks to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour. The president also supports legislation to raise the minimum wage to that amount for all employees, and challenged states and cities to raise their wages if Congress doesn’t act. The National Restaurant Association opposes mandatory wage increases and believes dramatic wage hikes limit opportunities, particularly for teens, entry-level and lower-skilled workers, who tend to have the highest unemployment rates.
“Providing individuals with a path to upward mobility is a critical national issue with long-term economic implications,” Sweeney said. “However, dramatic increases in the minimum wage are not the silver bullet that national labor unions and others are portraying them to be. Strong majorities of Americans believe that education and job training are much more effective strategies to provide real opportunity to upward mobility.”
The president also touched on patent abuse, an issue that has landed many restaurants on the receiving end of frivolous lawsuits by so-called “patent trolls” in recent years. Obama, who last year signed a series of executive orders aimed at curbing patent abuse, asked Congress to “pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.”