Biden Tees Up $15 Minimum Wage For Federal Employees

By Max Kutner
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Law360 (January 22, 2021, 7:04 PM EST) -- President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday taking steps to set the minimum wage for federal workers at $15 an hour amid a larger effort the new administration said was to provide economic relief in response to COVID-19.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Friday directing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to provide guidance on raising the minimum wage for federal employees to $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As part of an executive order that aims to protect the workforce, Biden directed the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to come up with recommendations for raising the minimum wage for federal employees to $15 an hour, according to the order.

"Career civil servants are the backbone of the federal workforce, providing the expertise and experience necessary for the critical functioning of the federal government. It is the policy of the United States to protect, empower and rebuild the career federal workforce," the order said.

OPM must now provide a report to Biden with the recommendations for raising the minimum wage for those workers.

Friday's action also revoked three orders by President Donald Trump from May 2018 that the new White House said had limited collective bargaining power and worker protections for federal workers.

The new directive also removed an October order from Trump that created a Schedule F job classification that would have made certain federal workers at-will employees.

The Schedule F classification "not only was unnecessary to the conditions of good administration, but also undermined the foundations of the civil service and its merit system principles," Friday's order said. The new order directed OPM to stop working to convert positions to Schedule F or creating new positions in the classification.

The order, one of many Biden has signed in his first days in office, comes as the new president seeks to make economic fixes in response to the pandemic. The plan includes having Congress pass his $1.9 trillion legislative package, the American Rescue Plan.

"Millions of Americans ... through no fault of their own have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck," Biden said in remarks Friday, moments before signing the executive order. "We must act decisively and boldly to grow the economy for all Americans."

The president's larger economic rescue plan calls for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers, not just federal employees. The rate has been at $7.25 since 2009.

The White House said that Friday's order would help federal workers who have been keeping people "healthy, safe, and informed."

"They are talented, hard-working and inspiring Americans, worthy of the utmost dignity and respect. But, over the last four years, they've been undermined and demoralized," the White House said in a statement Friday.

Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, a federal employee union, praised the order.

"There are thousands of federal employees who work full time yet earn less than $15 an hour," Kelley said in a statement Friday. "The federal government must serve as an example for other employers to follow by providing its own employees with a living wage, and we look forward to working with the Biden administration to make this a reality."

--Editing by Joyce Laskowski.

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