Basu: Do the right thing, businesses:Pay fair wages

Aah, pizza. Italy’s cheesy, crusty gift to America already sets the standard for the perfect food. Tuesday, pizza made the president’s State of the Union speech for doing something else: setting a standard of fair wages.

President Obama highlighted Punch Pizza, a St. Paul, Minn., chain that recently began paying its 300 workers starting wages of $10 an hour — nearly $3 above the federal minimum wage — not because it has to, but because it sees the value. “That’s a decision that has eased their financial stress and boosted their morale,” Obama said of Punch’s workers, one of whom was in the audience with the chain’s owner.

Some other companies like Costco have hiked minimum wages of their own free will, while some do it because it’s the law in the states where they operate. Despite Obama’s call to Congress a year ago to raise the federal minimum from $7.25 an hour, and despite a bill co-sponsored by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and California Rep. George Miller to make it $10.10 by 2015, that hasn’t happened. And it’s unlikely to in this Congress.

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