THE LATEST: Raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts to $15 per hour, as the Biden-Harris administration has done, will reduce income inequality and racial and gender wage gaps.

In two separate briefs filed on May 6, worker advocates and economic justice organizations urged federal district courts in Arizona and Texas to reject efforts by the Attorneys General of Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska and South Carolina to cut workers’ wages. The briefs were signed by:

  • Texas v. Biden – Amicus in Support of Workers’ Wages: Texas AFL-CIO, Every Texan, Southwest Laborers’ District Council, National Employment Law Project, Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, National Women’s Law Center, Economic Policy Institute, Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute.
  • Arizona v. Biden – Amicus in Support of Workers’ Wages: National Employment Law Project, Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, National Women’s Law Center, Economic Policy Institute, Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute, Grand Canyon Institute.

On April 27, 2022 the National Employment Law Project, Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Economic Policy Institute, represented by Democracy Forward, filed a second brief in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals urging the court to reject efforts to cut workers’ wages.

BACKGROUND

Workers employed by federal contractors provide essential services to our government and facilitate use of federal natural resources. From janitors to call center workers, security guards to guides on federal lands, these essential workers—who, in many industries, are disproportionately women and/or people of color—keep our government running, sometimes on poverty wages.

President Biden issued an Executive Order to raise minimum wages for these workers to $15 an hour in April 2021, emphasizing that decent compensation leads to less turnover, higher morale, better productivity, and better quality services for public dollars. On January 30, 2022, the Department of Labor’s final rule raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all federally contracted workers took effect.

The Department of Labor estimates that increasing wages will benefit more than 327,000 workers and help to rectify the racial and gender wage gaps in federal contractor workforces. 

Studies and literature cited in the final rule show the link between increased wages and morale and productivity increases and decreases in employee turnover and absenteeism, as well as the larger social benefits of increasing wages for workers by reducing poverty and income inequality.

In December 2021, Colorado outfitters challenged the rule in the federal district court in Colorado in Bradford v. U.S. Department of Laborseeking to block the increase in wage for all federal contract workers. The district court denied plaintiffs’ request to preliminarily enjoin the rule, and the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit where their appeal is pending.

On February 15, 2022 we filed a brief in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the National Employment Law Project, Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Economic Policy Institute urging the court to reject efforts to block the raise in wage. On February 17, 2022, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction, blocking the $15 minimum wage for seasonal recreational services while the appeal proceeds.

Attorneys General of Louisiana, Mississippi, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska and South Carolina, led by Texas and Arizona, have filed two additional challenges to the $15 federal contractor minimum wage-effectively seeking to deny their own citizens a wage increase. Attorneys General in the following states have also expressed support for the effort to cut workers’ wages in a brief filed in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, and Oklahoma.