On the evening of January 20, 2015, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives with Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, the president’s cabinet, and special guests in attendance. The speech comes in the midst of some of the highest satisfaction ratings in over a decade, but after a substantial Democratic loss during the recent mid-term elections.
As expected, the president’s speech addressed issues central to the national economy and the employer community including immigration, the minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave, cyber security, climate change, education and training, job creation, unions, child care, oil and energy resources, and health care reform. Below are just a few of the issues President Obama mentioned tonight.
Immigration. The president very briefly mentioned his challenged executive action on immigration—reaffirming that any bill aimed at “refighting past battles on immigration . . . will earn my veto.” He also mentioned the issue of whether to grant diplomatic recognition to Cuba, characterizing former U.S. policy as “long past its expiration date.”
Wage & Hour. As many anticipated, the president discussed his belief that all workers are entitled to paid sick leave—an idea that is spreading rapidly throughout the country, including in the following states: California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; and in the following cities: San Francisco, California, San Diego, California, Jersey City, New Jersey, and Newark, New Jersey—withEugene, Oregon possibly joining their ranks soon. President Obama, commenting that 43 million workers do not have paid sick leave, stated, “Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.” The president also discussed raising the minimum wage, paid maternity leave, equal pay for women, and overtime.
Education. President Obama presented an aggressive plan for the nation’s higher education system, stating that he is “sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.” Specifically, the president envisions that two years of community college would be “free and universal” and available to all students. He also expressed his intent to ensure that “Americans already burdened with student loans” can lower their payments. Finally, he called on private companies to offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships for workers.
Cyber Safety. One week after proposing federal legislation imposing national standards on companies that experience data security breaches, President Obama once again discussed the issue. “No foreign nation, no hacker,” said the president, “should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families.” The president’s proposal comes just a few weeks after one of the most high-profile security breaches hit a U.S. company.