President Barack Obama today announced that he will issue an executive order requiring that federal contractors pay workers at least $10.10 an hour. But the raises will not come immediately for the several hundred thousand food service, cleaning and other workers employed by federal contractors around the nation. The new $10.10 wage will be required for all new or renewed federal contracts.
The executive order action came just hours before Obama delivers his annual State of the Union address (follow it with us here) and follows several recent strikes and demonstrations by federally contracted workers calling for a living wage. The most recent was last week when a group of Pentagon workers employed by federal contractors at low wages to operate concessions and clean federal buildings walked off the job.
“I’m excited, and I’m glad that I know that Obama is listening and he’s on our side, and not on Ronald McDonald’s side,” National Air and Space Museum McDonald’s worker Alexis Vasquez told Salon’s Josh Eidelson.
AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. applauded the announcement but noted that many directly employed federal workers in many Veterans Affairs hospitals and military facilities supporting our veterans and military mission are earning less than $10.10 an hour and had their pay frozen for three years until a recent 1% raise was approved by Congress.
But if the president is to have any credibility in talking about living wages, he needs to get his own house in order first and do everything in his power to establish $10.10 as the minimum wage for all federal hourly workers….It would be far better policy for the government to bring this work in-house, take contractor profits out of the equation and provide the workforce with decent pay and benefits.
Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), said, “I’m hopeful the president’s leadership will inspire congressional leaders to follow suit by taking action to raise wages for millions of Americans relying on low-wage jobs to make ends meet.”
A NELP 2013 survey of 567 workers in federally contracted service jobs found that 74% earn less than $10 per hour. Twenty percent of these workers reported depending on Medicaid for their health care, and 14% depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) to meet their family’s food needs. Overall 56% of the workers interviewed reported having trouble paying their monthly bills.
The announcement on the White House website also called for Congress to pass an increase in the minimum wage nationwide, with the legislation from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) that would raise the minimum wage for all workers in stages, ultimately reaching $10.10 an hour, while also indexing the wage floor to inflation going forward.
Delegates to the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention also adopted a resolution calling for President Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to pay a living wage.