Some 67,000 workers get a pay raise – and more will soon follow
Thanks to President Biden, about 67,000 federal workers have now received a guaranteed $15 per hour minimum wage. And within this year, another 300,000 employees of federal contractors — who fill support positions for the government but are not federal workers — will join them.
The move, which involved Biden filling a 2020 campaign pledge via executive order, affects workers in all U.S. states and territories. It covers a multitude of occupations, including wildland firefighters, plant protection technicians, and custodial workers. Most of the 67,000 workers are civilian employees of the Department of Defense, working on military bases in the U.S. and around the world.
As the largest employer in the country, how the federal government treats its workforce has real impact,” Kiran Ahuja, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a statement. “Raising pay rates across the government to a minimum of $15 per hour reflects our appreciation for the federal workforce and our values as a nation. We know that paying a living wage provides a myriad of benefits, from recruitment to retention to increased productivity, and more. It’s also the right thing to do.”
For the 67,000 federal workers, the pay hike took effect on January 30. For the 300,000 employees of contractors that serve the federal government, the hike will take effect at different times throughout 2022.
In addition to the Department of Defense employees, the largest numbers of workers who will benefit from the pay hike work for the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
‘Whether they are on the front lines of our food industry, in the fight against climate change, protecting farms from invasive species, or our communities from devastating wildfires, each of USDA’s employees deserve to be fairly compensated for their talents and for all the important work they do for our country,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in the OPM statement. “As we work to build a better America and make USDA a great place to work, it is important that our employees understand that that we value their hard work to support our farmers, ranchers, and producers, to fight food and nutrition insecurity, to combat climate change, and to deliver results for the American people.”
Added Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough: “Of the nearly 67,000 affected federal employees, 9,700 are from VA. These employees include VA food service workers and housekeeping personnel. They are critical front-line employees, central to patient safety and improved outcomes for veterans in the fight against the continued COVID-19 pandemic.”
Biden, as he often did in the 2020 campaign, said in a statement Friday that “a job is about more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity.
“These workers benefiting from these actions are critical to the functioning of the federal government and of our nation, and I’m proud that their wages will begin to reflect that,” he said. “I continue to urge Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, so that Americans can have a job that delivers dignity.”
The move drew praise from the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 700,000 federal and D.C. employees.
“Because 85 percent of federal workers live outside the DC area, it is hard to imagine a single action that could have a more significant positive impact on all American workers’ paychecks beyond raising the federal minimum wage itself, which would take an act of Congress,” AFGE said in a statement. “Setting a new, $15 per hour wage floor for federal government work will encourage employers across the country who are currently paying poverty wages to compete for labor and start paying fairer rates, lifting the wages of American workers across the country.”