The minimum wage is going to rise for over 500,000 American workers whether Congress likes it or not. In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama will announce a unilateral executive action to raise the minimum hourly pay that companies that receive federal contracts must offer, a victory for workers who have been walking off the job at federal facilities in Washington D.C. since last spring. The new $10.10 minimum wage will not apply to existing contracts, but all new contracts must comply with it.
Here is everything you need to know about the reported executive action, the employees it affects, and what it could mean for other low-wage workers around the country.
Who would the new $10.10 minimum wage apply to? The workers aided by this action are separate from the overall federal workforce. Civil service employees and others directly employed by the government are not affected. But the federal buildings where those civil servants work need to be cleaned by janitors, maintained by technicians, and have their food courts serviced by line cooks and waitstaff and fast food cashiers. There are roughly 560,000 people employed by those government contracts, according to Demos. Another 1.4 million low-wage workers whose jobs are supported indirectly by federal spending won’t be affected by this change, but Demos head Heather McGhee nonetheless said in a statement that “the president’s action adds momentum to the fight for a federal minimum wage increase that would benefit all Americans.”
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