Dave Jamieson & Sam Stein
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will sign an executive order on Wednesday setting a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for workers under federal contracts, an administration official confirmed to The Huffington Post.
The signing will take place at the White House, where the president is expected to be flanked by low-wage workers who called on him to issue the order. Other details, including who exactly will be covered under the order’s language, will be made public tomorrow, the official said.
By signing the executive order, the president will make good on a policy proposal he laid out during his State of the Union address earlier this month. Neither the House nor the Senate has passed a minimum wage bill since the president first proposed raising the pay last February, so the president said he would hike the wage-floor himself for workers under federal contracts.
“I’m eager to work with all of you,” Obama told lawmakers during his address. “But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
In addition to setting a minimum wage of $10.10 — the same rate proposed in congressional Democrats’ wider minimum wage bill — the executive order will also tie the contractors’ minimum wage to an inflation index, according to an outline released by the White House earlier this month. Labor groups and progressive members of Congress had been calling upon the president to sign such an order in the months leading up to his State of the Union address, while groups of workers employed by federal contractors took part in one-day walkouts to protest low pay.
Although janitors and concessions workers are expected to benefit from the order, it won’t be clear exactly who may see a raise until the language is made public. Since it will pertain only to future government contracts, it could be years before some current workers are covered by the order. Meanwhile, advocates for the disabled have been pressuring the administration to include workers in so-called “14(c) programs” who can then be paid a sub-minimum wage under current law.
Wednesday’s event will mark the seventh executive action signed by the president since his State of the Union address. In addition to the minimum wage hike for federal contractors, the administration has created new retirement accounts, devoted millions of dollars to broadband in schools, announced new “climate hubs,” put into place a “made in rural America” export initiative, started a review of federal job training programs and instructed federal agencies to commit to fair reviews of long-term unemployed job applicants.
The executive order on federal contractors is meant to pressure Congress into passing legislation raising the minimum wage for all workers. The current federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour. It hasn’t been raised since 2009, after the last of a series of increases signed into law by then-President George W. Bush. Like the executive order, the Democrats’ bill, which was proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), would tie the minimum wage to an inflation index.
One of the most vocal proponents of the executive order is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who personally handed the president a letter urging him to issuing it. Ellison previously told HuffPost that he felt the government shouldn’t be in the business of underwriting poverty-wage jobs.
“We feel the federal government has a responsibility to set good labor conditions. We’re not talking about anything outrageous,” Ellison said. “If you look at the economics here, corporate profitability is very high now. They can afford it.”
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