THE LATEST: On September 28, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Bradford v. U.S. Department of Labor, a case in which federal contractors in Colorado are seeking to block President Biden’s rule that raised the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 per hour. 

A coalition of Attorneys General from 13 states (AL, AR, AZ, GA, ID, IN, LA, MO, MS, MT, NE, OK, SC) requested and were granted time at the hearing to make an argument themselves against the minimum wage rule. 

On August 2, 2022, we filed a brief on behalf of labor unions, worker advocates, and economic justice organizations urging the U.S. District Court-District of Colorado to reject efforts to cut workers’ wages. This is the fifth brief we have filed, in four courts, in three separate legal challenges to the Biden administration’s rule raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts to $15 per hour, a rule that will reduce income inequality and racial and gender wage gaps.

This brief was signed by: National Employment Law Project, Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, National Women’s Law Center, Economic Policy Institute, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, CWA Local 7781, National Partnership for Women & Families, Nebraska Appleseed, and Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute.

JoAnn Kintz, Senior Counsel at Democracy Forward said, “Federal contractors make our country run and must be paid a living wage, including workers of seasonal recreational services operating on federal lands that facilitate public access to our national parks and forests. We urge the court to uphold President Biden’s $15 minimum wage for federal contractors, and reject the effort by plaintiffs to prevent their workers from receiving a living wage. This challenge to the federal contractor minimum wage is part of larger, disturbing trend of extreme Attorneys General from Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas to cut their own residents’ wages, actively undermining workers’ ability to earn a decent living. Our brief is another case in point that workers won’t allow that to happen without a fight.” 

Colin Wells, a member of CWA Local 7781 (United Professional Ski Patrols of America) who helps keep visitors to our federal lands in Colorado safe as a Ski Patroller at the Steamboat Springs Resort Corp said, “A $15/hour minimum wage for workers who operate on federal lands only makes sense, from a financial as well as humanitarian perspective.  Many of these workers live in remote areas, with extended travel times to their places of employment.  Costs tend to be higher for food, fuel, and other essentials.  Specifically, in mountain/resort/ski towns, the cost of living can significantly exceed that of urban areas, and a $15/hour minimum wage is LITERALLY the minimum that employees should earn to cover their needs. Often times, even that is not enough.  Second and third jobs are required for many to meet rent and meals.  We support President Biden’s $15 Minimum Wage Executive Order unconditionally.”

BACKGROUND ON BIDEN’S $15 MINIMUM WAGE FOR FEDERAL CONTRACTORS

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.

BACKGROUND ON PENDING CHALLENGES

In December 2021, Colorado outfitters challenged the rule in the federal district court in Colorado in Bradford v. U.S. Department of Labor, seeking 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 an injunction pending appeal, blocking the $15 minimum wage for seasonal recreational services while the appeal proceeds.

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.

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.

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.

Last updated: September 29, 2022