Obama to raise minimum wage for federal contract workers


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama will announce tonight in his State of the Union address that he will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers on new government contracts, according to a White House document.

Liberal groups have been pressing Obama to act unilaterally since a divided Congress has failed to take up the issue to raise the minimum wage for all Americans.

But Obama's action will be more limited that advocates wanted -- impacting only future cntracts, not existing ones.

Obama will renew his call tonight for Congress to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage for all workers from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by 2015.

"Hardworking Americans...working on new federal contracts will benefit from the Executive Order (EO)," the White House said in a statement. Some examples of the people who would benefit  are military base workers who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry.

An estimated 2 million Americans work on federal contracts, though the number of workers receiving the minimum wage are only a portion of that number.

A survey by the National Employment Law Project of contractors who manufacture military uniforms, provide food and janitorial services, and truck goods found that 75 percent of them earn less than $10 per hour.

In September, 15 other senators sent Obama a letter urging him to issue an executive order that would increase the minimum wage for federal contractors.

"The president has made it clear that employees working for government contractors should not be paid starvation wages," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. "His executive order also gives us momentum for raising the minimum wage for every worker in this country to at least $10.10 an hour.”

On Monday, when asked whether Obama had the authority to raise the minimum wage through executive order, White House press secretary Jay Carney said "I don’t have an answer for it. I can simply say that the president believes Congress ought to act to raise the minimum wage."

Carney said after Thanksgiving the administration began receiving "a lot of interesting ideas from a lot of people in a lot of areas, both legislative and executive."

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