Obama to mandate minimum wage increase for govt contractors, but not ENDA?

The White House disclosed this morning that during his State of the Union address this evening, President Obama will announce an increase in the minimum wage for federal contract workers.

By using his executive authority, the President can increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for those employees of federal contractors making less than that amount.

Interestingly, the President’s proposal parallels one made by the gay community severeal years ago: That the President use an executive order to implement jobs protection legislation for gay and trans people (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, aka ENDA) who work for federal contractors.  While many do not realize it, it is currently legal under federal law to fire someone simply because they’re gay or transgender.

ENDA passed the Senate last year, but has zero chances of passing a GOP-controlled House, as Republican Speaker John Boehner has made clear.


In the past, the administration has said that it prefers congressional action on legislation, as opposed to an executive order, as actual legislation is more sweeping and more permanent:

Obama’s advisers say they’re also relying on their experience in 2010, when Congress repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military. The president came under pressure at the time to end the ban through executive actions, but he insisted that an act of Congress would be more sweeping and have an enduring impact.

The same rationale applies to the minimum wage. Actual legislation would affect more people, and be harder to overturn than an executive order.  But now that that rationale has flown (or been flung) out the window, it no longer applies to ENDA either.

As the President said back in 2011: “We can’t wait for an increasingly disfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.”

UPDATE: Jen Bendery at HuffPo asked former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today about an executive order covering ENDA, and Pelosi said the Presdient should do it.

As more background on this issue, here’s a nice Jon Stewart video on the issue of an ENDA executive order.

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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44 Responses to “Obama to mandate minimum wage increase for govt contractors, but not ENDA?”

  1. ronbo says:

    Pray tell how you convince ANY single issue voter with logic and reason. We have the people who hate Obama because he is black and the people who love him because he is black.

    How do we get THEM to look at his actual policy – not the empty words and false imagery? When I close my eyes, I see Obama’s policy as 1980’s Republican.

  2. karmanot says:

    All you have to do is write ‘Obozo’ and they will horsefly the comment.

  3. Houndentenor says:

    Thank you. That’s interesting. I’m glad you brought up the problem of sub-contractors. That’s how many businesses get around paying minimum wage, filling out I-9 forms (on workers they have to know aren’t here legally), and other labor laws. I would hope that happens less often with federal contractors.

  4. BeccaM says:

    Well, yeah. But as ever there were too many apologists who insisted we shouldn’t try to keep him to his promises and just be patient.

    Both the DADT repeal and his DoJ’s change in position on DOMA weren’t due to us being patient. It was through the liberal use of the stick rather than only the carrot.

  5. MyrddinWilt says:

    Umm, shouldn’t we have been holding his feet to the fire earlier then?

  6. karmanot says:

    Some essay on Obama’s ‘String Along Theory’ would be nice.

  7. BeccaM says:

    I’ll see what I can do. Thanks — the encouragement helps. Besides the news burn-out, I’ve also been buried with work.

  8. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Who knows. I can’t say that I ever expected much out of Obama–I don’t think anyone who lived through the Clinton presidency can hope for much out of any mainstream Democrat–but, heaven help me, I did expect just a little more than this.

    I suspect now that Obama’s goals for the presidency were nine-tenths satisfied merely by being elected in the first place, and so long as he can pretend to some sort of achievement while in office, even if it’s something as meaningless as raising wages for a few thousand federal employees, he can be content in claiming that he left the country better off than he found it.

  9. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Like Naja, I miss the science stuff :p

  10. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    “Intersectionality”?? Is that a word now?

  11. Thom Allen says:

    That’s it exactly. $10.10 isn’t enough, especially since the amount of money doled out for people on food stamps has been cut. Those who get off of Medicaid and who need to pick up a health care plan will be screwed by the monthly cost + deductibles, too. So, it may really be a major step backward for them. Imaging getting a raise to $10.10/hour and having to quit the higher paying job to take one at $8.00/hr just to try to maintain your status quo.

  12. Thom Allen says:

    Might I suggest “The Who” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUbGLVvfB7Y

  13. Thom Allen says:

    I’m not sure that “defend” is the right word. They would recite the party line and attack anyone who didn’t support shrub. Sometimes they would invent “facts” out of whole cloth to support him. But an actual defense – no, I think most on the right are incapable of that.

  14. perljammer says:

    It’s really hard to find a believable answer for that question. The Dept. of Labor says approx. 16,000 Federal workers are at or below minimum wage, but they don’t say how many of those are contract workers as opposed to Federal employees. If you assume they’re all contract workers, then those at/below minimum make up less than 1% of the roughly 2,000,000 Federal contract workers. Then there’s the part about this only applying to contractors who are having their contracts renewed, which means only a fraction of those making minimum will actually get a pay increase. And of course, there’s the issue Naja raised above about contractors who use other contractors to fill their openings. All things considered, I would guess that the number affected is somewhere between very few and hardly any.

  15. Naja pallida says:

    You don’t find the science stuff palate cleansing enough? Seems like we need a nice piece on the new Hawking theory for black holes, and how a scientist working to disprove himself doesn’t show how science is always wrong, but instead shows exactly how science is supposed to work.

  16. Bill_Perdue says:


    After Iraq and Afghanistan? After Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine? Civility? After the extrajudicial murder of four Arab/muslim Americans? After 6 years of union busting, pigheaded refusal to sign an ENDA EO and repeated efforts to put the finishing touches on an American police state? After FISA, the Paytriot Act, NDAA and NSA snooping?

    The LGBT movement is way too ‘civil’ and it shows in our lack of progress. Our enemies in the WH and Congress don’t deserve any civility.

  17. perljammer says:

    This is what I find so puzzling. The numbers are so tiny — 16,000 Federal workers at minimum wage, of which an unknown (or rather, unspecified by the Dept. of Labor) number are contract workers, of which some smaller fraction work for companies having their contracts renewed in the near future. Why would the President want to run the gauntlet of criticism by detractors from both ends of the political spectrum for something that barely qualifies as a symbolic gesture? Conservatives will decry him for ruling by fiat, while liberals will chastise him for being too timid. Maybe it seems boneheaded to me because I’m not a master of multi-dimensional chess.

  18. Bill_Perdue says:

    The way to focus on wealth distribution is to raise demands like $15 or fight and others that will not be agreed to by right wing parties like the Democrats to use them as educational methods to help create political engines to end capitalism, the real cause of wealth distribution.

    The election of a socialist to the city council who beat a leading Democrat scab in Seattle, the passage of a $15 minimum wage in SeaTac, the election of an all union slate running against Democrat scabs in Ohio and efforts by unions and the union left to do the same in Chicago and in LA are just a few examples of how $15 or fight, coupled with the upsurge among bix box and fast food workers has the potential to recreate the worker/union radicalism of the 1930’s.

    As we begin to grow the left will raise other ideas, like constitutional amendments to guarantee socialized medicine, a guaranteed wage at high trade union levels for all workers and poor people, guaranteed good housing and an education,
    k through grad school and etc, All of them are aimed at creating massive, militant movement to end the rule of the rich and confiscate their power, ie, their wealth, without compensation, .


  19. Oh I got blockback for it on Twitter (on my @aravosis account) for allegedly pitting one progressive community against another (I was unaware that anyone here came out against the minimum wage increase), and not practicing good “intersectionality,” (that might be the new “I” in LGBTI), which, to my best understanding, means “stop working on YOUR gay rights issues and work instead on MY issues, but feel free to call my issues ‘gay,’ even though they’re not, if that helps.”

  20. dcinsider says:

    This was exactly my very first thought upon reading this news. Good grief.

  21. BeminDC says:

    I guess my goal is to try to get things done. I’m critical when the Obama administration deserves it (seriously, no ENDA?), but just calling a group of people “bots” doesn’t do much. Maybe it makes you feel good, but is it persuading anyone?

  22. nicho says:

    Yeah, that’s what they’re doing. Yeah, sure — changing things from the inside. Just like the Log Cabinettes.

  23. nicho says:

    No, but sometimes even they can’t defend him. Don’t know if that’s good or bad. Bushbots could defend Dubya not matter what he did.

  24. GarySFBCN says:

    While the $15/hour wage will immediately ease suffering, and I support it because of that, it does little to ‘correct’ the lopsided wealth distribution. We really need to focus on other aspects of income disparity.

    I just read about this in El Pais: Apple doesn’t pay taxes at all in Spain because they show losses. They establish bogus ‘affiliates’ in Ireland that sale iPhones at inflated prices to the Apple stores in Spain, so the Spanish Apple stores show a loss, even though they had €146 million in revenue in Spain in 2012.


  25. Indigo says:

    You don’t suppose AmBlog is off their radar, do you?

  26. Indigo says:

    It’s the old Truman joke that goes like this: Harry and Bess were riding along in an old-style plane over the Midwest and Harry said, You know, I think I’ll toss a dollar bill overboard and make some one happy. Bess said, Harry, why don’t you toss a couple of half dollar coins over and make two people happy. I could toss over four quarters, he said, and make four people happy. You could jump overboard, said the pilot, and make the entire nation happy. Ba-dum-bump!

    And so it goes, another miniscule gesture displayed with the hauteur of high seriousness. I sense Valerie Jarrett’s silken touch. As for Barry, he’s irrelevant to the process and apparently just recites the scripts his “team” drafts for him. Color me disgusted with a purple crayon.

  27. Naja pallida says:

    I bet it also doesn’t apply to federal contractors who then contract third party staffing agencies to fill their low-wage jobs.

  28. BeminDC says:

    Civility ;)

  29. nicho says:

    No Obamabots here to tell us why? Maybe they’re all at the annual pre-SOTU Circle Jerk and don’t have time.

  30. Naja pallida says:

    Not even considering his ENDA cowardice, this is even more timid than it seems… there’s somewhere around 2 million federal contract workers, and only a fraction of those make less than the proposed amount. Not to say it wouldn’t greatly help those contractors who are stitching uniforms and mopping floors, but the actual number of people helped is relatively small in comparison to the huge problem of wage stagnation, and wages being significantly below the amount needed to actually live on. While he makes no sensible moves to limit executive compensation for federal contractors, which are bleeding us dry more and more every year, because they always seem to get their cost of living increases no matter what

    Then there’s the issue that $10.10 per hour is treading that line between a livable wage and still needing government assistance. About 20% of low-wage government contractors currently rely on Medicaid and food stamps to make up the shortfall in their income. Even at $10.10 an hour most still would would need those programs. But those people are not really going to be helped much if they suddenly find that the increase in their income results in them no longer qualifying for Medicaid and/or food stamps, and yet still not being enough to cover their cost of living.

    This is quite literally the least he could do, to give the political cover of making it seem like he recognizes and is addressing the problem, without taking any decisive steps to actually do so. The only adequate word I can think of to describe it is: weak.

  31. Houndentenor says:

    Quick question (because this does really make a difference): how many workers in such federal projects are making less than the new proposed minimum wage? Does this affect any workers at all? If so, exactly how many. (I realize for new projects that’s hard to say, but current projects should be a good indicator.) My guess is very few, but I could be wrong. I will only admit I’m wrong if someone has solid numbers.

  32. BeccaM says:

    Why do you think I’ve been posting so infrequently these last few weeks… It’s not that I burned out on blogging, but on news that just keeps raising my blood pressure.

  33. Silver_Witch says:

    He also said he would “put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk that picket line” with workers who deserve [fill-in blank]. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SA9KC8SMu3o

    So perhaps he was fibbing! Or more probably he was being a politician and is very very busy with way more important things…like hmmmmm the ACA, or closing gitmo (no not that one), or getting woman protection from violence (no not that one)…well two out of three is okay.

  34. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    And, of course, even this typically timid action of Pres. Obama’s has the congressional Republicans screaming about how Obama is a dictator. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/28/republicans-fight-obama-minimum-wage-executive-action-plan

    I think I’m going to turn up the Led Zeppelin really loud and stay away from the news the rest of the day. Maybe for the rest of the year.

  35. BeccaM says:

    Actually the ENDA executive order wasn’t a proposal from the LGBT community, to deal with the fact that Congress is either too cowardly & feckless (Dems) or outright bigoted (GOP) to pass an actual ENDA law.

    Candidate Obama himself said he’d do it.


  36. karmanot says:

    Typical Obama flea circus.

  37. MyrddinWilt says:

    Well it could be because nobody in his circle of advisors proposed making the order broader. I suspect though that the order is not really expected to affect many workers and the real point is to try to push the hand of Congress on the minimum wage ahead of the mid terms.

    But why not make this the thin end of a wedge? Once the precedent has been set on the minimum wage on federal installations, automatically indexing is pretty straightforward and would be very hard for successors to repeal.

    ENDA is another logical step, but rather harder to police if it is limited to federal facilities.

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  39. BeminDC says:

    Always disappointed by the timidity of this Administration. There’s no downside. It’s been vetted. Yet we’re stuck again with the “fierce urgency of whenever.” I thought that “we cannot wait” and that we’re going to have a “year of action.” Disappointing.

  40. Timothy Sipples says:

    Dear God let’s hope it’s not Chained CPI-U!

    I understand why he can’t mess with currently running contracts, but why isn’t he making the order a bidder fitness order rather than a mere bidder performance order? The federal government has plenty of procurement rules governing which bidders are qualified to bid. OK, maybe a few contractors would howl, but there’s an easy solution to their problem: they pressure Congress to set a $10.10 (straight CPI-U indexed) minimum wage nationally so they’re not at a disadvantage competitively in their non-government businesses. The President could even start with his bidder performance order ($10.10 or better on federal sites) and also add a 2015 implementation date for the bidder fitness component (the bidder’s workforce must be all at $10.10 indexed or better), to give those mighty contractors time to twist arms.

  41. Bill_Perdue says:

    His refusal to sign an ENDA is proof positive that his rebranding about LGBT equality was just that. a fake. Obama began his career over a decade ago as a representative of the Chicago Machine with promises of hope and change, promises he quickly betrayed. It’s looks as though he’ll end his career the same way,

    He;s been a paid fraud his whole career, specializing at efforts to rebrand the Democrat Party. They need rebranding because they’re a mirror of the Republican party – utterly right wing, corrupt, racist, pro war, anti-union and anti worker.

    His discovery of ‘income inequality is the latest in a series of political lies meant, not to protect workers, but to deflect attention from his ongoing campaign to bust unions and the Bill of Rights.

    The way to protect ourselves from the real anti-worker business of the Democrats and Republicans is to fight with unions, with the unorganized at WalMart and fast food chains for a minimum federally guaranteed wage of $15.00 an hour. That campaign, which saw initial success with the election of a socialist in Seattle and the passage of a $15.00 minimum in the town of Sea-Tac, Washington is gaining popularity and adherents across the country among organized workers in unions and unorganized workers.

    Pushing for $15 an hour will cut through the Democrats lies like a knife through butter, exposing them as frauds and building even more momentum for working class independent political action and the creation of militant and massive trade unions for fast food and WalMart workers.





  42. perljammer says:

    As I understand the proposed Executive Order in its current form —

    1. The wage hike applies only to new contracts. Workers employed under existing contracts will not receive a wage increase. The rationale is that it would be unfair to increase the costs of contractors with existing contracts.

    2. The minimum wage Executive Order does index the minimum wage to inflation in some manner, the details of which are not clear. Also not clear is how this would play with point #1 (in other words, if workers under an existing contract cannot receive a wage increase, how can they get an inflation adjustment?)

    3. This affects only workers whose employers’s contracts with the Federal government have those people working at a Federal installation (e.g., a military base, Federal office building, etc.).

    Since there isn’t an ENDA Executive Order, it’s pointless to speculate on what its implementation would look like.

    As to why the President is issuing an Executive Order concerning the minimum wage, and not issuing one concerning LGBT employment discrimination, I think it’s easy to answer that question. The President is on his Minimum Wage horse. His apologists would say that his plate is full. History has shown that the President’s plate is actually a saucer, and can hold only one issue (and usually only a limited amount of one issue) at a time.

  43. That’s my question as well – it wasn’t at all clear if he just meant the workers working on the project in question.

  44. Timothy Sipples says:

    While we’re at it, does the President’s executive order index the minimum wage federal contractors must pay to inflation? If not, why not?

    Excellent point, John. Also, for both minimum wage and EDNA executive orders, does the scope apply only to the workers putting in hours directly for the federal government, or would the orders prohibit the federal government from doing business with any bidder that pays any of its workers less than indexed minimum wage or which fires any of its workers for being LGBT? Big difference!

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