Preparing to deliver his State of the Union address to a Congress in which Republicans will block his priorities just because they're his priorities, President Barack Obama isn't just calling on Congress to get things done. He's also telling them about things he's getting done without them. The White House announced one immensely important such executive action Tuesday morning ahead of the speech: The president will sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
Federal workers like janitors, construction workers and dishwashers hired under new federal contracts would benefit from the new order, which the White House calls an example of how the president can "lead by example."The wage increase will apply only to future contracts or contracts that are renegotiated, so current federal contract workers won't see a raise from Obama's action; many, though, work in Washington, DC, where the city government is raising the minimum wage in steps to an eventual $11.50 an hour. Obama's order could also be revoked by a future Republican president, so low-wage contract workers should take this not as a sign that the president will make things better for them forever but as an opportunity to double down on the organizing and activism they've already begun.
"Boosting wages will lower turnover and increase morale, and will lead to higher productivity overall," the White House said in a statement. "Raising wages for those at the bottom will improve the quality and efficiency of services provided to the government."
Raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers also won't affect the vast majority of minimum-wage workers in the United States as a whole; for that to happen at one blow rather than piecemeal, Congress needs to act. But of course House Republicans won't even allow a vote on it.