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Punch Pizza co-owner and worker to attend State of the Union as guests of first lady Michelle Obama

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: January 28, 2014 - 2:10 PM

Punch Pizza founder and co-owner John Soranno and kitchen worker Nick Chute plan to attend tonight's State of the Union address as guests of first lady Michelle Obama — a month after all eight of its Twin Cities’ locations raised the minimum wage for employees to to $10 an hour.

Punch Pizza's announcement came Dec. 10, the same day that thousands of workers took to the streets in cities across the country to rally for a raise in the minimum wage.

A recent University of Minnesota graduate and Minneapolis resident, Chute started working at Punch Pizza about 18 months ago, according to the White House. He is currently working as a cook, but hopes to eventually move into management.

The Twin Cities-based company's decision to boost pay for its 300 workers encapsulates one of the narratives of President Obama's speech: boosting middle-class prosperity.

Soranno, a St. Paul resident, founded Punch Pizza in 1996.

"Our decision had nothing to do with politics, that's what makes the recognition by the President and First Lady such an honor. Punch made the decision to give raises purely based on what is best for our business and our employees," co-owner John Puckett said in a statement.

Obama will pressure Congress this year to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage for all workers from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by 2015.

Federal lawmakers last increased the minimum wage in 2007.

Most Minnesota employers must pay the higher federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but certain employers are able to take advantage of the state minimum, paying their workers as little as $6.15 per hour.

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