Tag Archives: federal contracts

Obama to raise minimum wage for those in new federal contracts

The White House today unveiled some details of President Barack Obama’s “Year of Action” push, which will involve “making progress through executive action.”

Such executive action is a response to Congress’ failure or refusal to act on issues, such as increasing the minimum wage.

The pending Harkin-Miller bill would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and index it to inflation thereafter.

The president supports the bill, but also plans to announce in his State of the Union address that he will sign an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for those employed under new federal contracts.

The White House statement said the order will cover “workers who are performing services or construction and are getting paid less than $10.10 an hour. Some examples of the hardworking people who would benefit from an EO include military base workers who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry.”

The statement also said, “A higher minimum wage for federal contract workers will provide good value for the federal government and hence good value for the taxpayer. Boosting wages will lower turnover and increase morale, and will lead to higher productivity overall. Raising wages for those at the bottom will improve the quality and efficiency of services provided to the government. When Maryland passed its living wage law for companies contracting with the state, there was an increase in the number of contractors bidding and higher competition can help ensure better quality.”

The White House statement stressed the president’s support for the Harkin-Miller bill and cited evidence that raising the minimum wage is good for business, and has the support of some leading U.S. companies.

LGBT civil rights advocates responded to the announcement with a call for an executive order protecting LGBT workers under federal contracts.

Businesses in states lacking LGBT protections get $300 billion in federal contracts

A study released by a coalition of equal rights groups shows that $250 billion to $300 billion a year in federal contracts goes to businesses in states that do not protect LGBT workers from discrimination.

The coalition, in addition to releasing the study, promoted a petition calling on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The group – which includes the Center for American Progress, Freedom to Work, the Human Rights Campaign, the Movement Advancement Project, and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates – said without such an order, the federal government is subsidizing discrimination with taxpayer money.

Specifically, the study found that in 2012, $249 billion in federal contract money went to businesses in states that do not ban employment bias based on sexual orientation. About $293 billion last year went to states that do not ban employment bias based on gender identity.

“With no federal employment protections, too many LGBT workers are at risk of losing their jobs and their livelihoods,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “The permanent solution is to pass an inclusive ENDA. In the meantime, we hope President Obama will issue an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT Americans.”

“Should President Obama take action, we would likely reach a tipping point in terms of nondiscrimination coverage for the LGBT workforce. With broad support from the public, even from a majority of Republicans, workplace nondiscrimination should be a no-brainer,” said Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress.

Tico Almeida of the Freedom to Work said more than 175,000 people have signed a petition seeking an executive order. He encouraged additional signatures on the petition.

LGBT rights groups seek executive order against employer bias

Civil rights advocates are renewing their push for President Barack Obama to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The drive comes as the president included an unexpected declaration of support for equal rights in his inaugural address Jan. 21, saying, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Supporters hope his comments will lead to action on their agenda on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Obama had frustrated some supporters last year when he declined to issue an executive order that would protect workers at companies with government contracts from bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

White House officials said Obama was waiting for Congress to pass broader legislation that would prohibit all employers from discriminating against gay workers.

“Getting past an election always uncomplicates things,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “We intend to pick up the issue once again and ask the president to do this.”

Current federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin, but it doesn’t stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire a worker based on sexual orientation.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye said this week that the Obama administration is not ready “at this time” to issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against gays.

The push for Obama to act comes as legal recognition of LGBT rights has gradually expanded: Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nine states and D.C. have legalized same-sex marriage.

Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases that could further expand gay marriage rights. LGBT rights groups are hoping the administration files briefs in the case to argue that gay marriage is protected by the Constitution. Obama has so far insisted gay marriage is a state issue, and White House spokesman Jay Carney reaffirmed that stance Jan. 22 in response to questions about the president’s inaugural speech.

LGBT supporters have been a loyal constituency for Obama, helping him raise millions for his re-election campaign. And they have been grateful for the president’s first-term decisions to back same-sex marriage and repeal the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, allowing gay soldiers to serve openly for the first time.

But job discrimination remains one of the last barriers for gay workers, and activists say it’s unrealistic to expect Congress – with a Republican-controlled House – to revise discrimination laws anytime soon. Those efforts have failed to make headway in Congress for more than a decade.

In the meantime, an executive order banning discrimination by federal contractors would affect more than 20 percent of the workforce – about 16 million workers. And some advocates believe an executive order could provide the spark that gets Congress to act.

“There’s clear research that shows LGBT people face high rates of discrimination in the workplace, and we need to pursue every possible policy solution to that problem,” said Jeff Krehely, vice president of LGBT research at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

Randel Johnson, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for labor issues, said business owners might have some concerns with an executive order, depending on how it was drafted, with new paperwork and enforcement requirements.

“Executive orders are often enforced through the severe sanction of debarment from federal contracts, so they must be carefully and narrowly structured,” Johnson said.

Otherwise, the Chamber has taken no official position on congressional efforts to pass broader legislation prohibiting discrimination against gay workers.

Many Fortune 500 companies already include bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation in their workplace, and many others include gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, welcomed Obama’s inaugural remarks, calling him “the most pro-LGBT president in American history.” But she said it’s also time for the president “to finish the job of ensuring that every American gets a fair shake.”