On the day of his State of the Union address, President Obama will mark his “Year of Action: Making Progress Through Executive Action” by signing an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers.
His action comes days after about 50 food court and janitorial workers at the Pentagon went on a union-organized one-day strike, protesting outside the Defense Department that their wages — averaging about $9 an hour for the fast-food chains housed within the building — were too low. Groups organizing the walkout included the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers and the NAACP.
“The President wants to work with Congress to pass the Harkin-Miller bill that would increase the Federal minimum wage to $10.10 and index it to inflation thereafter, and he will continue to work with Congress to get that done. The President has also looked at what he can do through executive action to help raise wages for hardworking Americans. In the State of the Union Address, the President will announce that he will use his executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts for services,” the White House said this morning.
“This action will cover workers who are performing services or construction and are getting paid less than $10.10 an hour. Some examples of the hardworking people who would benefit from an EO include military base workers who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry.”
The increase is applicable to new contracts forged after the order is signed, “so contractors will have time to prepare and price their bids accordingly.”
The White House contended that the move will result in better contracting services with lower turnover and higher morale. “When Maryland passed its living wage law for companies contracting with the state, there was an increase in the number of contractors bidding and higher competition can help ensure better quality.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 14 colleagues sent Obama a letter in September urging that he issue an executive order to set the federal contractors’ minimum wage at $10.10, but the president waited until the day of his big speech on income inequality.
“I applaud President Obama for issuing this executive order which will raise wages for hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers,” Sanders said this morning. “The president has made it clear that employees working for government contractors should not be paid starvation wages. This executive order also gives us momentum for raising the minimum wage for every worker in this country to at least $10.10 an hour.”