During his State of the Union speech Tuesday, the president used Costco as an example of an employer that pays its workers a living wage to buttress his call for increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.
"Nobody's looking for a free lunch," he said after touring the massive Costco warehouse. He joked about picking up a 50 pound bag of dog food for the first dogs, and maybe a big screen TV, too. "But, give people a chance. And, if they're working hard, make sure they can support a family," he said.
Repeating themes of his address before Congress, Obama said the U.S. economy has created 8 million new jobs in the last four years and unemployment is the lowest in more than five years -- albeit because of discouraged workers dropping out of the labor market.
Corporate profits and stock prices have soared, he said, but "too many Americans are working harder than ever to get by, much less get ahead."
He then spoke about pay equity for women in the workplace, job training, access to education and making sure hard work pays off.
"And that is why I firmly believe it's time to give America a raise," the president said.
Obama said Costco's chief executive officer is not being philanthropic when he pays employees more than the minimum wage. Entry level Costco workers earn $11.50 and the company pays an average $21 a hour.
"He's a businessman,"said Obama to about 450 people gathered in the middle of the store.
About 50 Costco workers and a huge American flag were behind him and a banner read: Opportunity For All."
"He's looking at the bottom line, but he sees that if he's doing right by Costco's workers, then they can buy that 80 inch TV, too, right," Obama said.
The president then headed to Pittsburgh to talk to U.S. Steel Corp. workers in West Mifflin, Pa., about his plans for 'myRA" savings accounts to help save for retirement.