President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, pressuring Congress to raise pay for the rest of the country.
The raise would affect an estimated 3,500 workers in South Carolina, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The hike would affect only those people who work for private companies with federal contracts – such as food service workers at Fort Jackson and Upstate defense contractors – rather than salaried workers employed directly by the federal government.
The wage hike would take effect Jan. 1. The executive order also calls for further annual cost-of-living raises as determined practical by the secretary of labor.
“The president wants to give America a raise ... and set an example for the rest of the country,” Cecelia Munoz, White House domestic policy council director, said in a conference call. “Now it’s time for Congress to finish the job and raise the wage for everyone.”
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The order fulfills the president’s promise made during his State of the Union address in January. But neither the House nor the Senate has passed a minimum wage bill since the president first proposed raising pay in February 2013.
The executive order directs the Labor Department to implement rules, definitions and requirements for the wage hike, as well as hold a public comment period. That language would determine who exactly will get the wage hike and when.
The order covers only future government contracts, so it could be years before some workers see the benefits.
The executive order is intended to turn up the pressure on Congress to pass legislation raising the minimum wage for all workers. The current federal minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009, a hike that was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush.
The bill raising the minimum wage, proposed by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., would tie the minimum wage to an inflation index.
“No person who works a full-time job should live in poverty,” Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said during a conference call.