President Biden directed his administration on Friday to work on an executive order that will require federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide employees with emergency paid leave, garnering praise from the contracting community.
This was one of several actions Biden took Friday aimed at empowering the federal workforce and providing Americans with economic relief. He said he would like to be able to issue the executive order for contractors within his first 100 days.
“This was something that the president talked about on the campaign, that when we are using taxpayers’ dollars federal contractors should be provided the benefits and pay that workers deserve,” said National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, during a briefing on Friday. “The American people are hurting, they need help right now,” but the actions taken today are “not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief.”
Many in the contracting community welcomed the news.
“Thank you President Biden for taking this important step,” said Taiwanna Milligan, leader of the Fight for $15 movement and McDonald’s worker. “Extending a $15 wage to workers on federal contracts and subcontracts would give some 700,000 workers a raise, including many essential workers like custodial and food service workers. And we know that it’s Black and Brown workers who have both been devastated by the pandemic and who bear the burden of poverty wages in this country.”
Employees of Maximus––which employs one of the largest federal contracting workforces in the country, through a contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to handle call phones from Medicare and Affordable Care Act participants––also applauded the order.
“Despite the essential health services Maximus call center workers provide to Americans on behalf of the federal government, they are paid as little as $10.80 an hour,” the union Communications Workers of America, which is organizing with Maximus employees, said in a statement on Friday. “The majority of federal call center workers at Maximus are women and people of color who live in communities that have been historically marginalized, so the current low wages at the Maximus call centers contribute to gender and racial income disparities.”
CWA President Chris Shelton said the order is “an important first step in fulfilling his promise to improve working conditions for the millions of federally contracted employees like the call center workers at Maximus, who have been underpaid and mistreated for too long.”
Jaime Contreras, vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the country’s largest property service workers union, which has 1,000 federally contracted janitors and security officers in the Washington, D.C., area and New York City, said the president isn’t just “helping to lift communities out of poverty and improve lives, but he’s also enabling working families to better support local businesses, boost our economy and alleviate overburdened state and federal programs.”
Biden issued this mandate to his administration because “he felt it was something that was not just right to do, but something that was necessary to do,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, during the briefing. If the executive order is issued within the president’s first 100 days, then it will come on or before April 30.
Correction: This is article has been updated to say that CWA is organizing with Maximus employees.