Good Government: Updating Fair Labor Standards – UPDATED with Transcript and Photos

The President will travel to La Crosse Wisconsin this afternoon to officially announce an update to the Fair Labor Standards Act that will go into effect next year.

President Obama: “This week, I’ll head to Wisconsin to discuss my plan to extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers in 2016, covering all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year. That’s good for workers who want fair pay, and it’s good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve — since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren’t.”

From La Crosse, Thursday afternoon:


Secretary of Labor Tom Perez:

On June 25, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act to, in his words, “end starvation wages and intolerable hours”. In addition to establishing the first-ever national minimum wage (a modest 25 cents per hour), the FLSA enshrined the 44-hour work week, later reduced to 40, mandating time and a half overtime pay for anything beyond.

But the overtime regulations haven’t been meaningfully updated in decades. An exemption from overtime eligibility originally meant for highly-compensated, white-collar employees now applies to workers earning as little as $23,660 a year — below the poverty line for a family of four. In 1975, 62 percent of full-time salaried workers were eligible for overtime pay; but today, only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below the salary threshold and are automatically eligible for overtime pay.

Today, 77 years and five days after FDR signed overtime pay into law, President Obama announced the release of a new proposed rule that, once final, would extend overtime protections to roughly 5 million workers. As proposed, it would set the new salary threshold at the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers, projected to be about $970 a week (or $50,440 a year) in 2016, more than double its current level. And by automatically updating the salary threshold to keep pace with inflation or wage growth, the proposal would guard against erosion of overtime pay in the future and provide more certainty for businesses and employees.

(Full Department of Labor blog post below)

DOL: 5 Millions Reasons Why We’re Updating Overtime Protections

Paul Ebien-Pesa just wanted a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work so that he could provide for his family. But as a manager at a discount retail store in Massachusetts, he worked an average of 72 hours per week without earning a dime of overtime pay. He worked so many hours that his hourly pay was less than most of the employees he supervised. And the long hours on the job kept him from spending time with his wife and two young daughters.

“I was working 7 days a week and missed out on a lot of time with my kids,” Paul said. “At that age they were growing so fast. I had to work New Year’s, Easter, different holidays and celebrations. I missed out on so much.”

There are millions of American workers just like Paul, sacrificing precious family time for a job that’s not paying them enough to make ends meet. That’s not right, and it undermines the very intent of the law that has governed work in America for more than three quarters of a century.

On June 25, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act to, in his words, “end starvation wages and intolerable hours”. In addition to establishing the first-ever national minimum wage (a modest 25 cents per hour), the FLSA enshrined the 44-hour work week, later reduced to 40, mandating time and a half overtime pay for anything beyond.

But the overtime regulations haven’t been meaningfully updated in decades. An exemption from overtime eligibility originally meant for highly-compensated, white-collar employees now applies to workers earning as little as $23,660 a year — below the poverty line for a family of four. In 1975, 62 percent of full-time salaried workers were eligible for overtime pay; but today, only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below the salary threshold and are automatically eligible for overtime pay.

Today, 77 years and five days after FDR signed overtime pay into law, President Obama announced the release of a new proposed rule that, once final, would extend overtime protections to roughly 5 million workers. As proposed, it would set the new salary threshold at the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers, projected to be about $970 a week (or $50,440 a year) in 2016, more than double its current level. And by automatically updating the salary threshold to keep pace with inflation or wage growth, the proposal would guard against erosion of overtime pay in the future and provide more certainty for businesses and employees.

Workers like Paul aren’t the only ones who believe we need to update the rule. Forward-looking employers like Craig Boyan of H-E-B, a Texas-based grocery chain with roughly 80,000 employees and billions in revenue, believe this is both the right thing to do for workers and the smart thing to do for their business.

FDR said of the FLSA: “Except perhaps for the Social Security Act, it is the most far-reaching, far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted here or in any other country.” To maintain the reach and far-sightedness that FDR promised, our proposal would restore overtime pay to millions of salaried workers whom the law was intended to protect. Today, we are taking an important step forward toward empowering the middle class and rewarding hard work with a fair wage.

Transcript of the president’s speech: Remarks by the President on the Economy — La Crosse, WI

University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1:34 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Wisconsin! (Applause.) I am thrilled to be back in Wisconsin. Hello, U.W.L.! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m fired up! (Applause.) It is good to be back in “God’s Country.” (Applause.) I appreciate being anyplace that names an eagle after Stephen Colbert. (Laughter.)

Happy early 4th of July, everybody. (Applause.) I figured I’d come here to kick off the long weekend.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Get a Bratwurst!

THE PRESIDENT: I’m looking for a brat. (Laughter.)

It is wonderful to see your outstanding Senator, Tammy Baldwin, here. (Applause.) Tammy is doing outstanding work in the Senate. And then, over in the House, you got a Congressman who never forgets his La Crosse roots — Ron Kind. (Applause.) Yay, Ron! Your Mayor, Tim Kabat. (Applause.) Former Governor, Jim Doyle. (Applause.) And I want to thank your chancellor, Joe Gow — (applause) — and everybody who helped to organize this. I’m so appreciative.

I’ve heard good things about Riverfest. (Laughter.) We do a pretty good cookout at the White House. In fact, we’re having a barbeque for the troops on Saturday. (Applause.) But let’s face it, nobody does brats like Wisconsin. (Applause.)

So, no matter where you live, this is a special time of year to be an American. You’ve got the food, you’ve got the fireworks. By the way, if you have chairs, feel free to sit. (Laughter.) I’m going to talk for a while. If you don’t have chairs, don’t sit down because you’ll fall. (Laughter.)


THE PRESIDENT: Love you! (Applause.)

But in addition to the fireworks, in addition to the food, this is a chance to celebrate a bedrock principle so deep that generations of Americans have been willing to risk everything to declare it: the idea that all of us are created equal. (Applause.) That all of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights like liberty, the pursuit of happiness — and that it’s each generation’s obligation to help secure those rights not just for a few, but for everybody. (Applause.)

And that’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. It’s been a remarkable few weeks in America. (Applause.) Health care is now affirmed as something that everybody can get, not just some. (Applause.) And by the way, it’s not just a matter of making sure everybody has access to high-quality care; it’s also organizations like Gundersen here in Wisconsin that are doing great work to help — (applause) — to increase quality and to control costs. And so that was a great affirmation.

And then, the freedom to marry who you love — that’s now open to all of us. (Applause.) Everybody. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. (Applause.) That is a good thing.

And then out of the worst of tragedies, this country is responding with a generosity but also the kind of self-examination that can lead us to someplace better.

Some folks think all this progress comes really quickly. But the truth is progress only comes with the persistent, dedicated effort of citizens — (applause) — people who are, in their own small ways all across the country, working hard, committed to the promise that’s always set this country apart. It doesn’t happen because of the Supreme Court; it doesn’t happen because of a President or a member of Congress. It happens because ordinary people work hard and do extraordinary things together; the promise that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can chase our own individual dreams, but we still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation has opportunity as well.

And that’s especially true when it comes to our economy. And that’s what I’ve come to La Crosse to talk about on this 4th of July weekend.

America has always done better, economically, when we’re all in it together, when everybody gets a fair shot. (Applause.) When everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules. When we all feel like we’ve got a common stake in our success — from the CEO in the corner suite to the workers on the factory floor. That’s how we built the great American middle class. When you drive through La Crosse and throughout Wisconsin, when you see communities where kids are thriving and communities are thriving, it’s because everybody has a shot. Everybody is working hard. Everybody is pitching in. That’s when we’re at our best.

Now, this morning, we learned that our businesses created another 223,000 jobs last month. (Applause.) And the unemployment rate is now down to 5.3 percent. (Applause.) Keep in mind, when I came into office it was hovering around 10 percent. All told, we’ve now seen 64 straight months of private sector job growth, which is a new record — (applause) — new record — 12.8 million new jobs all told.

And that’s good. But we’ve got more work to do because we’ve got to get folks’ wages and incomes to keep going up. (Applause.) We’ve got to make sure folks feel like their hard work is getting them somewhere. And let’s face it, there are a lot of folks who still feel like the playing field is tilted in ways that make it hard for them to get ahead.

The challenges facing working men and women didn’t all start with the recession. It’s been going on for a while now. For a long time, health care was closed off from too many people and cost too much. Our schools too often were underfunded, weren’t preparing our kids and our workers for the competition that’s coming from the rest of the world.

And by the way, our teachers are underpaid. (Applause.) I’m just saying. That’s true. (Applause.) Hardest job there is; most important job there is; and we should honor it as such. (Applause.)

Other nations had been racing ahead on clean energy; we were still addicted to foreign oil when I came into office. So, even as we’ve worked to put people back to work in the short run, we’ve also been trying to work to change some of these long-term trends to make sure that we’re laying the foundation for future success.

We worked to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation for growth. And in slow and steady ways, that work is paying off.

We believed that we could ship fewer jobs overseas, start bringing new jobs to our shores instead. So we retooled the American auto industry. Today, we’re on track to sell more cars and trucks this year than we have in over a decade. (Applause.) We invested in American manufacturing. And after a decade of decline, thanks to some of the steps we took, thanks to the support of folks like Tammy Baldwin and Ron Kind, we’ve added nearly 900,000 new manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing is actually growing faster than the rest of the economy. (Applause.)

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high; more Americans finish college than ever before. (Applause.)

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and do a better job of protecting the planet. (Applause.) Today, America is number one in the traditional fuels — oil and gas — but we’re also number one in wind. We generate more than 20 times as much solar electricity as we did in 2008. (Applause.) And thanks to lower gas prices and us setting standards to double fuel efficiency on cars, the typical family is on pace to save about 700 bucks at the pump this year. (Applause.)

We extended tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses, and, yes, we asked the wealthiest Americans — who have been doing better than everybody else not just relatively, but absolutely — we asked them to pay a little bit more to help bring down the deficit. (Applause.) We put in place the toughest Wall Street reform in history that’s protecting Main Street from another crisis if folks start acting reckless on Wall Street.

As I already mentioned, health reform means the uninsured rate in America is now the lowest on record. (Applause.) I have these vague recollections of when Republicans were saying Obamacare would kill jobs and crush freedom and bring about death panels. (Laughter.) And it turns out we’re still celebrating the 4th of July. (Applause.) The only difference is another 16 million Americans can celebrate it with health care. (Applause.) That’s worth celebrating. (Applause.) The republic survived. (Laughter.)

By one leading measure, what business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now growing faster than what they spend on health care. And that’s the first time that’s happened since the 1990s. So not only are more people getting health care, but because we’ve slowed the growth of health care costs, businesses have more money left over to start giving raises to their workers. That’s good for everybody. (Applause.)

Now, I just want to play back the tape — I want to play back the tape — because we were told all these measures were going to destroy jobs and explode the deficit. Remember that?


THE PRESIDENT: Remember when Republicans promised to bring unemployment down to 6 percent by 2017? (Laughter.)

So we’ve got a record streak of private sector job growth. We’ve cut the deficit by two-thirds. Our stock market has more than doubled — (applause) — restoring 401ks for millions of families.

This is progress. Step by step, America is moving forward. Middle-class economics works. (Applause.) It works. Yes! (Applause.)

But we still got more work to do. As Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you just sit there.” (Laughter.) You got to keep running. And so the question we’ve got to keep asking ourselves is, where do we go from here? Because we still have choices. Will we drift toward an economy where only a few of us do very well and everybody else is still scrabbling, struggling to get by? That’s not the right way to do it. Or will we keep working towards an economy where everybody who works hard has a chance to succeed?

And over the next year and a half, you’re going to hear a lot of pitches from a lot of people — they’re going to deny that any progress has been made. You’ll hear a lot of folks trying to sell you on their vision of where our country should go. They’re going to be making a whole bunch of stuff up. (Laughter.) And when I say a lot of stuff, I mean a lot of stuff. (Laughter and applause.) We’ve got some healthy competition in the Democratic Party, but I’ve lost count of how many Republicans are running for this job. (Laughter.) They’ll have enough for an actual “Hunger Games.” (Laughter and applause.) That is an interesting bunch. (Laughter.)

So, but, Wisconsin, I’ve come here today, I figure why should I let them have all the fun? (Laughter.) It is a good thing that this time around, you’re hearing Republicans joining Democrats, talking about the middle class and working families. And that’s good. I welcome them acknowledging that that’s an important issue. But just keep in mind, Tammy, Ron, me — we were talking about the middle class before it was cool. (Laughter and applause.) Before it was trendy. (Applause.) We were talking about it before the polls told you, you should be talking about it. (Laughter.)

And they talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. Their menu doesn’t have a whole lot of options for the middle class. The one thing that the bus full of people who are fighting to lead the Republican ticket all share is they keep on coming up with the same old trickle-down, “you’re on your own” economics that helped bring about the crisis back in 2007-2008 in the first place.

And I want to emphasize — I know some of them well. They’re good people. It’s just their ideas are bad. (Laughter and applause.) And I want to emphasize that. We’re one country, we’re all on one team, and so we’re all one American family. But we all go — we’re at Thanksgiving and Uncle Harry starts saying something and — (laughter) — you say, “Uncle Harry, that makes no sense at all.” You still love him. (Laughter.) He’s still a member of your family. Right? But you’ve got to correct him. You don’t want to put him in charge of stuff. (Laughter and applause.) That’s all I’m saying. (Applause.)

And by the way, if there’s an Uncle Harry out here — (laughter) — I wasn’t talking about you. (Laughter.) I was just using “Harry” as an example.

Here are a few of their bad ideas: Eliminating taxes that the wealthiest Americans pay on their investments while making you pay taxes on every dime of your paycheck. That’s a bad idea. (Applause.) That’s a bad idea.

Keeping the minimum wage worth less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office before most of you were born — that’s a bad idea. (Applause.) Although, to be accurate, at least one of them actually thinks we just shouldn’t have a nationwide minimum wage at all — we should just get rid of it.

Every single one of these candidates serving in Congress has supported cutting taxes for folks at the top while slashing investments in education. I know that sounds familiar.


THE PRESIDENT: Some of those members of Congress voted to do it. Every single one of them is still obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act despite the fact that, by every measure, it’s working. (Applause.) You know, look, you could make an argument against Obamacare before it passed — it’s something new; it’s untried; you don’t know. But now, where it’s doing exactly what it was supposed to and actually costing less than we expected, and people are satisfied with the coverage we’re getting, it just seems a little mean — (laughter) — to say that you don’t want to provide coverage to 16 million people. And you’ve got nothing to replace it with — that’s a bad idea. (Applause.)

Now, I just to be clear, these are all really their ideas. I’m not making it up. You can go fact-check it. I’m not asking you to select from this list to see which one is actually true — they’re all true. And the thing is there’s nothing new about this philosophy. Right? It’s a philosophy that believes if we give special breaks to folks at the top, prosperity trickles down for the rest of us.

But we’ve seen what happens when top-down economics meets the real world. We’ve got proof right here in Wisconsin. You had a statewide fair pay law that was repealed. Your right to organize and bargain collectively was attacked.


THE PRESIDENT: Per-student education funding was cut. Your minimum wage has been stuck in place. Meanwhile, corporations and the most fortunate few have been on the receiving end of hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax cuts over the past four years.

All right, so that’s what’s been going on here. What happens when we try middle-class economics? Just across the river — (applause) — I mean, it’s a pretty interesting experiment. Across the river, in Minnesota, they asked the top 2 percent to pay a little bit more. They invested in things that help everybody succeed — like all-day kindergarten and financial aid for college students. (Applause.) They took action to raise their minimum wage. They passed an equal pay law. They protected workers’ rights. They expanded Medicaid to cover more people.

Now, according to the Republican theory, all those steps would have been bad for the economy. But Minnesota’s unemployment rate is lower than Wisconsin’s. Minnesota’s median income is around $9,000 higher. The La Crosse Tribune wrote, “Minnesota is winning this border battle.” (Applause.) Now, it is true that, as the Tribune pointed out, Wisconsin does have the Packers. (Applause.) So even a Bears fan can respect the Packers. (Applause.)

But understand, I’m saying this — Wisconsin is this extraordinary state filled with extraordinary people. But if you end up having policies that cut education, help folks at the top, aren’t expanding opportunity, then it’s not going to work. We need better policies — (applause) — because the bottom line is top-down economics doesn’t work. Middle-class economics works. (Applause.) It works. It works. (Applause.)

And this is also a matter of values. Being an American is not about taking as much as you can from your neighbor before they take as much as they can from you. We’re not just a bunch of individuals out here on our own. We’re a community. We’re a family. We’re all in this together. (Applause.)

We all have to work hard. I was taking some photos beforehand with Ron, and met a couple folks who’ve got dairy farms. Nobody works harder than farmers. (Applause.) They know about hard work. Farmers know about hard work. They wake up early, go to bed late. They’re worrying all the time about making sure things run. But they also understand about being neighbors and helping each other out. That’s America.

We’ve got to make sure that this economy works for everybody who’s willing to work, everybody who’s willing to do their fair share. So I want to spend just the rest of my time talking about what that might mean for the 21st century.

Number one, we’ve got to help working families feel more secure in this world of constant change. That’s why health reform mattered. If you ever have been locked out of the health care market just because you have a preexisting condition, those days are over. (Applause.) So you can now change jobs, chase that new idea, start a business — because you’ve got portable, affordable insurance if you need it. And that’s going to protect a lot of people in the new economy.

The same applies when it comes to wages and benefits. Instead of treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, we got to treat it like a national economic priority. (Applause.) We’ve got to make sure that when we’ve got families where the mom and dad work, that we’re putting together ways for them to still make sure their kids are secure and safe. (Applause.)

See, we got a lot of young people here who don’t — aren’t really thinking about that yet — and that’s good. (Laughter.)

We got to make sure we got sick leave that’s in place so that families — if somebody at home gets sick, you’re not thinking, do I give up my paycheck or do I take care of my loved one. Everybody should have that basic benefit. (Applause.)

We need to boost the minimum wage. Give America a raise. That’s very straightforward. (Applause.) We have to protect — and not attack — a worker’s right to organize for fairer wages and better benefits, and safer workplaces. (Applause.)

Folks forget sometime unions are what helped bring about the 40-hour workweek — (applause) — helped bring about the idea of the weekend. And I know that’s a popular concept. (Laughter.) Helped establish worker protections, worker safety, a stronger middle class. As I said at Laborfest in Milwaukee last fall, if I were looking for a good job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union — because I’d want a union looking out for me. And we’re stronger together than we are by ourselves. (Applause.)

I’d want Congress looking out for me, too — but you can’t always get what you want. (Laughter.)

So when Congress doesn’t act on behalf of working people, what I’ve tried to do is partner with cities and states and mayors and governors and acted on my own. Over the past couple of years, 17 states, almost 30 cities and counties have taken action to raise wages. Other cities and states have started guaranteeing workers paid sick days and family leave. (Applause.) And just this week, we took action to protect a worker’s right to overtime. (Applause.)

Now, this is an issue of basic fairness. If you work longer, you work harder, you should get paid for it. (Applause.) Today, some companies take advantage of an exception in the rule to make their lower-wage employees who really should be paid hourly — they’re making them work 50, 60, sometimes 70 hours a week without paying them an extra dime. In extreme cases, it’s possible for workers to actually earn less than the minimum wage. So they essentially label somebody as management instead of a worker, even if they’re making, like, $25,000 — work them a whole bunch of hours. That’s a way of getting around the minimum wage. It’s not fair.

So we’re updating the rules. We’re ending that exception. (Applause.) We’re making more workers eligible for the overtime that you’ve earned. And it’s one of the single most important steps we can take to help grow middle-class wages. It’s going to give as many as 5 million Americans, including 80,000 folks right here in Wisconsin, the overtime protections they deserve. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.) Because in America, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

Now, in an economy that’s constantly changing, we’ve also got to give every American the chance to earn the skills they need to stay competitive. That’s why we’ve got to be investing in job training and apprenticeships that help folks earn the skills for that new job or better-paying job. That’s why we should make community college free for responsible students — like Tammy Baldwin is introducing in the United States Senate. (Applause.) No middle-class family should be priced out of the education that they need. (Applause.)

And we need to keep churning out high-wage jobs for a better-trained workforce to fill — which means investing in basic research and development that leads to new businesses and industries. We should put more Americans to work rebuilding our roads, our railways, our bridges, our ports, our airports. (Applause.)

At a moment where our economy is in a position of global strength, because we’re growing faster than most other countries right now — advanced countries — we have to rewrite the rules for the global economy before a countries like China do. The other day, I signed a couple of bipartisan bills that will help our businesses sell more goods made in the United States than the rest of the world. (Applause.) And I’m going to keep pushing for trade that is fair and that creates a race not to the bottom, but to the top — (applause) — that creates better wages and better working conditions. Because when the playing field is level, American workers always win. (Applause.) They always win. We know how to work. Americans know how to work. (Applause.)

So that’s what we need for this new economy: Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Give them the tools they need to earn higher wages and better jobs. Keep our businesses the most competitive. Stay on the cutting-edge of technology. Invest in research. Rebuild our roads. Rebuild our bridges. That’s how we’re going to help more middle-class families succeed in a new and changing economy. We can’t stop the economy globally from changing, but we can make sure we’re at the forefront of adapting to it.

And, look, I don’t want to lie to you — this is hard. If it sounds hard, it’s because it’s hard. (Laughter.) I remember when we were working on health care, I had an advisor who — we’re in a meeting and we were going around and around about how we were going to get this thing done. He raised his hand and he says, Mr. President, the thing is, this is hard, and hard things are hard. (Laughter.) I said, well, thank you for that astute observation. (Laughter.) So when he left, he left me a plaque that I put on my desk — it says “Hard things are hard.” (Laughter.) Just in case I forget. (Laughter.)

Battling back from recession has been hard. Fixing a broken health care system has been hard. Making our economy more competitive for the future — it’s hard. But the last seven years — shoot, the last seven days — should remind us there’s nothing America cannot do. (Applause.) There’s no challenge we can’t solve. There are inspiring Americans who prove this every single day. (Applause.) Nothing we can’t do. Nothing we can’t do. There’s nothing we can’t do. (Applause.)
I got to admit — let me just, as a quick aside — I’ve been President for six and a half years now. I do not watch the news. (Laughter.) I didn’t — no offense. (Laughter.) But you’d think, like, every day, the only thing going on are shark attacks and — (laughter) — just horrible things. But every day, I do get letters from Americans from all walks of life, and they’re doing such amazing, inspiring things. Sometimes just simple things — working hard; running a farm; looking after their families; teaching a child. And every once in a while, they do something that has a even broader impact.

So Steve Cottrell lives right here in La Crosse — I’m going to use him as an example. Steve? Steve is right there. (Applause.) He’s going to start blushing, but I’m going to talk about him anyway.

In 2002, he started a small business out of his house to help manage data for car companies and dealerships. By 2007, he employed a handful of people. Then he was hit with a double whammy — the recession came and the auto industry almost went belly up. But we refused to walk away from people like Steve. That shot in the arm, Steve says, was enough to keep his company’s confidence going. During the worst years of the recession, Steve invested in new people, new technology; decided to double down, was absolutely confident his business model was right.

As the auto industry came roaring back, things began booming. And since 2007, Steve’s revenue is up 1,000 percent. (Applause.) His company, Authenticom, has gone from 18 employees to more than 120. (Applause.) So this business that began in Steve’s son’s old bedroom is now one of America’s fastest-growing private companies, based in a restored historic building right in downtown La Crosse. (Applause.)

Now, I guarantee you Steve worked hard. He put everything he had into it. He took enormous risks. But he’s also somebody who recognizes that he didn’t do it by himself. He’s proud of what he’s accomplished, but he also talks about how fortunate he’s been to be part of a community like La Crosse, to be part of an industry that got back to basics, determined to do things better and smarter. He pays his employees fair wages. He guarantees paid sick days. He helps pay for the tuition of those folks when they decide to go back to school. He created a stock appreciation program, so when the business does better, his workers do better also. And then, most importantly, there’s “Free lunch Friday.” (Laughter.) Who doesn’t like “Free Lunch Friday,” right? (Applause.)

So, look, I want to read something Steve said. He said, “You can’t always do everything that everyone would like. But if you treat everybody like family, that’s good for us.” If you treat everybody like family, that’s good for us.

What’s true for Steve’s business is true for America. If you treat everybody like family, that’s good for us. Not just me; not just you; not just Democrats; not just Republicans; not just old folks or young folks; not just black folks or white folks — it’s good for us. (Applause.)

We’re not going to solve every problem in one fell swoop. But if we make things a little better for our fellow Americans, we’re going to leave something better for us and for our kids. And if we’re walking down that road together, we’re going to get there faster. (Applause.)

That’s what we’re fighting for, everybody. That’s what we’re fighting for, Wisconsin. (Applause.) That’s what Tammy is fighting for and Ron is fighting for. That’s what we all have to fight for. (Applause.)

Happy 4th of July, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)

2:19 P.M. CDT


Photos h/t 1864 House:



  1. A little bit about La Crosse WI: it is a reliably blue part of Wisconsin, home to UW-La Crosse and some of the most dedicated environmentalists that you will ever meet. And you can see why … this is where it is situated (that is the Mississippi River):

    Who wouldn’t want to focus like a laser on keeping this beautiful?

    I have a friend who will be at the event and I hope to be able to post photos and liveblog off Twitter later this afternoon.

  2. Wisconsin is a good place to make a speech about labor. Nowhere has it been more obvious how quickly a state can go from Progressive to Regressive when it comes to labor and living wages.

    When Gov. Scott Walker (R) was inaugurated in 2011, he quickly signed laws to destroy public sector unions, eliminating thousands of family supporting middle-class jobs and shrinking the income of those who were left. Following his re-election in 2014, he wasted no time signing laws destroying private sector unions insuring that the new generation of workers are untrained and underpaid. Now he is seeking the repeal of the prevailing wage law, insuring lower wages for even more Wisconsinites.

    Walker said that the president’s way is wrong because everyone knows that that way to grow jobs is to defund education and pass the saving on as tax cuts for the wealthy. Indeed! His plan is working so well that Wisconsin is now 34th in the nation in job growth, dead last in the upper Midwestern states and employers are complaining that there are there are not enough skilled workers for the jobs they do have. Who could have predicted that?

  3. Warmup Tweets:

    John Nichols ‏@NicholsUprising
    Scott Walker makes a surprise visit to Wisconsin, where he is greeted by President Obama.

    (alluding to the fact that Walker has been out of the state 99% of the time since January)

  4. Liveblog:

    Kyle Dimke ‏@news8dimke 2m2 minutes ago
    Obama: “It’s been a remarkable few weeks in America” #ObamaInLaCrosse

  5. Valerie Jarrett ‏@vj44
    .@POTUS’ new overtime rule will give as many as 5 million Americans, including 80,000 folks in #WI, the overtime protections they deserve.

    • The White House ‏@WhiteHouse 2m2 minutes ago
      “When the playing field is level, American workers will always win.” —@POTUS

  6. Jay Bookman from AJC cracking open Walkers claims like rotten fruit:

    Obama’s choice of Wisconsin is not accidental. Apparently, the White House sees Walker as a useful foil in its effort to contrast Democratic proposals to help working Americans with those that are championed by Walker and fellow Republican governors.

    In April, a statewide poll conducted by the Marquette Law School reported that just 41 percent of Wisconsin residents approved of Walker’s performance as governor; 56 percent disapproved. (It also showed Walker losing in his home state to Hillary Clinton by 12 percentage points, 52-40.)

    And why is Walker’s job rating so dismal? The economy.

    “Voters also see the state’s employment situation as turning down compared to other states, with 52 percent saying that Wisconsin is lagging behind other states in job creation, 34 percent saying that the state is doing about the same as other states and 8 percent saying that the state is creating jobs faster than other states.”

    Just 8 percent believe that Wisconsin job growth is better than average?

    Of course, since perception isn’t always reality, I thought I would take a look at the data to see how the Wisconsin economy has performed since January 2011, when Walker became governor. I wanted to see two things: How total job growth under Walker’s anti-union, education-slashing policies compare to those of neighboring states in the upper Midwest, and how it compares to job growth nationally.

    Welcome to Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, the model for Republican economic policy.

  7. Steve Benin: Scott Walker picks a fight he can’t win

    Today, the president will be in Wisconsin, where Walker will greet him at the airport, before Obama fleshes out his new overtime policy at a University of Wisconsin campus. Politico reported that Walker has “become the White House’s bete noire” – the conservative governor is the one Republican “the president’s aides always hold up as an example of exactly what’s wrong with politics.” […]

    Walker’s [op ed] piece added that he intends to tell the president how great far-right governance is, and “for the sake of hard-working taxpayers across the country, I hope he will listen.”

    Whether he realizes it or not, the governor is picking a fight he’s unprepared to win.

    Let’s put aside, at least for now, the fact that President Obama has a pretty amazing record on job creation and ending the Great Recession. Let’s instead focus on his critic because Walker’s boast about his state’s “dramatic” economic recovery is belied by, well, reality.

    … when it comes to job creation, Wisconsin ranked 35th in the nation in 2011, 36th in 2012, 38th in 2013, and 38th in 2014. Walker not only failed to keep his promise about creating 250,000 in his first term, he barely made it to 129,000.

    In May, the Washington Post reported that the state’s rate of private-sector job growth “is one of the worst in the nation” and Wisconsin’s middle class “has shrunk at a faster rate than any other state in the country.”

    It’s against this backdrop that the state is also struggling badly with a major budget shortfall, which Walker still doesn’t know how to close.

    This is the guy who wants to brag about his economic record? The one who hopes to teach Obama a few things?


  8. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI):

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today applauded the announcement from President Obama that the Department of Labor will propose extending overtime pay that will support Wisconsin’s middle class and boost incomes of working families. The proposal would guarantee overtime pay to most salaried workers earning less than an estimated $50,440 next year and would benefit approximately 80,000 Wisconsin workers.

    “Too many Wisconsinites are working longer and harder yet they are still struggling to get ahead as our state economy continues to lag behind. This action by President Obama rewards hard work, restores overtime pay, and ensures that working families in Wisconsin earn a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am pleased that President Obama will be coming to Wisconsin to highlight this action. Our state has a work ethic that is second to none and we welcome his efforts that respect and reward the hard work of Wisconsinites.”

Comments are closed.