The president will raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers to $10.10, NBC News has learned.
He will announce the executive order during Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
This means that new contracts for construction workers, the people who wash dishes on military bases, and janitors who would have made less than $10.10 will be hired at a higher rate.
“A higher minimum wage for federal contract workers will provide good value for the federal government and hence good value for the taxpayer,” a release announcing the move said. “Boosting wages will lower turnover and increase morale, and will lead to higher productivity overall.”
The real value of the minimum wage has been sinking for years—the current minimum wage of $7.25 is two dollars less in real wages than the minimum wage was at 1968. Taxpayers themselves pay more than two million workers wages of less than $12 an hour—that’s more than McDonalds and Wal-Mart combined—according to the progressive group Demos.
It is the latest executive order the president has used to accomplish some of his goals without the approval of Congress; prominent Republicans have criticized the president for what Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called an abuse of power.
Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner spoke out against the president’s order in a breakfast meeting with reporters.
“This idea that he’s just going to go it alone. Going have to remind him we do have a Constitution and the Congress writes the laws,” he said. “The president’s job is to execute the laws faithfully. And if he tries to ignore this, he’s going to run into a brick wall.”
When a White House spokesman said that more executive orders were in the works for 2014, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul retorted “it sounds vaguely like a threat.”
“I think it also has a certain amount of arrogance in the sense that one of the fundamental principles of our country were the checks and balances,” Paul said on CNN.
But the release argues that the president is “using his executive authority to lead by example, and will continue to work with Congress to finish the job for all Americans by passing the Harkin-Miller bill.”
The existing minimum wage bills, proposed by Democrats Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller in both chambers, would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 for all workers in $0.95 increments and tie it to inflation. It would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers as well.
A Washington Post poll out on Monday found that a slim majority, 52% of Americans, approve of the president’s Congress-bypassing executive orders. (The sampling error is +/- 3.5 points.)
Washington responded with more polar views.
Vermont’s Bernie Sanders—who was among the senators who pressured Obama in September to issue such an executive order—applauded Obama’s move.
“I applaud President Obama for issuing this executive order which will raise wages for hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers. The president has made it clear that employees working for government contractors should not be paid starvation wages,” he said. “This executive order also gives us momentum for raising the minimum wage for every worker in this country to at least $10.10 an hour.”
Across the aisle, Boehner attempted to rain on the president’s parade of support.
“It will affect absolutely no one,” he said, according to ABC.