President Obama, standing in front or workers, speaks about raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. The wage increase to $10.10 an hour goes into effect next year, and applies to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts.
(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin AP)
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - Surrounded by low-paid workers, President Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday that will raise the minimum wage on future federal contracts, and renewed his call on Congress to pass legislation so that all low-paid earners get a pay hike.
The signing of the executive order, which Obama promised to do in last month's State of the Union Address, comes as Democratic lawmakers have floated legislation in the Senate and the House to gradually raise the minimum wage to $10.10. for all workers.
The legislation, which has strong opposition from Republicans in both chambers, faces long odds, but Obama is continuing the drumbeat on an issue that polls show has broad public support. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the Senate will consider the legislation in early March.
"Members of Congress have a pretty clear choice to make right now," Obama said. "Raise our workers' wages, grow our economy, or let wages stagnate further, and give workers what amounts to another pay cut this year."
Obama's executive order will only affect workers on future federal contracts and is expected to eventually impact hundreds of thousands of workers. The new wage will be set at $10.10 per hour.
"Right now there is a dishwasher at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas making $7.76 an hour, a fast food worker at Andrews (Air Force Base) right down the street making $8.91 per hour, there's a laundry worker at Camp Dodge in Iowa, making $9.03 an hour," Obama said. "Next year as their contracts come up, each of them and many of their federal coworkers are going to get a raise."
The order also includes provisions to make sure that tipped workers under federal contract earn at least $10.10 overall. The current minimum base wage is $2.13 per hour, but will be raised to $4.90 for new and replacement contracts next year.
The executive order also includes a provision for workers with disabilities. Under a government program that dates back to 1938, employers could pay certain disabled workers sub-minimum wages - sometimes for a fraction of the prevailing minimum wage. Under the order, employers will no longer be able to pay a sub-minimum wage to workers whose productivity is affected because of their disabilities may
"This principle doesn't apply to some of us," Obama said. "It applies to all of us."
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