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Blog: Lifting Up Those Working on Behalf of the American People


Location: Washington, DC

Melissa Roseboro and Miguelina Jaquez de Solano both work at the McDonald's in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in our nation's capital making around $8.50 an hour. That's barely enough to make ends meet.

But President Obama is taking a strong step to give them a well-deserved raise. As part of his year of action to ensure opportunity for all, the president issued an executive order in February to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 for workers on federal construction and service contracts -- workers like Melissa and Miguelina. Today, to implement the executive order, the Labor Department announced a proposed rule, which provides guidance and sets standards for employers.

President Barack Obama signs an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, Feb. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Melissa says the raise to $10.10 will allow her both to pay her bills and buy birthday presents for her grandchildren, something she can't do now. Miguelina says it will allow her to pay her phone and electric bills on time.

The president acted because he believes no one who works a full-time job should live in poverty. And he believes the federal government should set an example as a model employer, ensuring that anyone doing work on behalf of the American people receives a fair wage. He also knows that this step will improve the efficiency and productivity of our contractors, and improve the quality of services they provide to taxpayers.

The proposed rule was developed after extensive outreach to the contracting community, workers and procurement officials throughout the executive branch. Once final, the rule will cover contracts and replacement contracts that result from solicitations issued on or after Jan. 1, 2015. It will apply to four major categories: service contracts; construction contracts; concessions contracts; and contracts for services provided to federal employees, their dependents or the general public on federal property or lands. That means construction workers building new federal office buildings, the hardworking Americans who sell souvenirs at our national parks and the caregivers who watch over federal employees' children in agency day care centers will be covered.

The proposed rule will also improve the quality of the services we receive in return for taxpayer dollars. I meet with employers all the time who have raised wages for their workers because they know it reduces turnover and training costs, improves morale and boosts productivity.

But this step isn't enough. Congress must now follow the president's lead, because all workers -- not just those who work on federal contracts -- should have their hard work rewarded with a decent wage. Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would lift 2 million people out of poverty and benefit more than 28 million people. That's 28 million people who could have a little more money in their pockets -- money they need to provide for their families, money they will pump back into the economy through their consumer spending.

Ever since FDR signed the Fair Labor Standards Act 76 years ago, there has been bipartisan support for increasing the minimum wage. It's time once again to give America a raise. Our workers need it. Forward-looking businesses embrace it. A majority of Americans support it and a majority of the U.S. Senate voted for it. So many states and localities are already doing it. It's time for Congress to take action.

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