OPINION: How the federal government treats its workforce has real impact

Common Dreams

As a record number of U.S. states and cities raise their minimum wages following a decade of grassroots organizing by the #FightFor15 movement, the Biden administration has directed federal agencies to pay government employees at least $15 an hour.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued new guidance to the heads of all executive departments and agencies instructing them to implement the new wage by January 30. Nearly 700,000 federal workers are expected to receive a raise as a result of the new policy, which was first reported by Axios.

OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement that “as the largest employer in the country, how the federal government treats its workforce has real impact. Raising pay rates across the federal government to a minimum of $15 per hour reflects our appreciation for the federal workforce and our values as a nation.”

Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees — which represents 700,000 federal workers — called President Joe Biden’s move “one of his most significant actions to date.

“For the tens of thousands of workers who will start seeing more money in their paychecks each week, this is a transformative policy choice that will improve their everyday lives,” Kelley 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.”

The administration’s move follows a recommendation in an executive order signed by Biden during his first week in office. Last November, the U.S. Labor Department announced that all federal contract workers will be paid at least $15 per hour starting this year while asserting that all U.S. workers should receive at least that much.

Reacting to the November announcement, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said, “Now, let’s take this nationwide and give over 30 million workers a much-needed and well-deserved raise.”

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