During his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama will announce plans to issue an executive order giving a raise to low-wage workers on new federal contracts, a move that affects thousands of people in the Washington area, the White House says.
Several times over the past year, workers who serve as janitors and food servers at federal landmarks across Washington have protested their wages, which are usually at or close to the federal minimum of $7.25 and hour or the DC minimum of $8.25 an hour. The most recent demonstration came last week, when about 50 janitorial and food-service workers at the Pentagon walked off the job. Similar protests have been carried out at Union Station, the Ronald Reagan Building, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Nationwide, the federal government—through contracts and grants—funds nearly 2 million jobs paying less than $12 an hour, according to the think tank Demos. Many of those positions are filled by food servers and other service workers on military bases, Demos spokesman Alex Aamend says.
Obama’s executive order will raise the minimum wage for contracted workers to $10.10 an hour.
The executive order targeting federal contractors will be part of a broader push by the White House for a blanket increase in the federal minimum wage for all workers, but that has to go through Congress. The White House is pushing for a hike to $10.10 per hour, with annual increases pegged to the rate of inflation.
The federal hourly minimum has remained at $7.25 since 2009. Since then, many states and the District have increased their local standards, with DC, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County all recently passing legislation to raise their minimum wages to $11.50 an hour.