The more than 200,000 food service, cleaning and other low-wage workers employed by federal contractors across the nation are closer to getting a raise to $10.10 an hour. The Labor Department today issued a proposed rule to implement President Barack Obama’s February executive order requiring federal service and construction contractors to pay workers a minimum of $10.10 an hour.
In announcing the proposed rule, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said:
A core American value is that hard work should be rewarded with fair pay. And as the president said in his State of the Union address, if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.
Last year and earlier this year contract workers at the Pentagon, the Smithsonian Museums and other federal facilities in Washington, D.C., walked off the job to protest their low pay and called on Obama to raise their wages through executive order.
A 2013 survey by the National Employment Law Project polled 567 workers in federally contracted service jobs and found that 74% earned less than $10 per hour. Twenty percent of these workers reported depending on Medicaid for their health care, and 14% depended on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) to meet their family’s food needs. Fifty-six percent of the workers interviewed reported having trouble paying their monthly bills.
Raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts will provide a much-needed boost to many who are working hard but still struggle to get by, and it will also benefit taxpayers with improved employee retention and productivity.
The executive order applies to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts with the federal government that result from solicitations issued on or after Jan. 1, 2015, and to contracts that are awarded outside the solicitation process on or after Jan. 1, 2015.
The proposed rule provides guidance and sets standards for employers concerning coverage, including coverage of tipped employees and workers with disabilities. It also establishes an enforcement process familiar to most government contractors that will protect workers’ right to receive the new minimum wage.