By Kathleen Hennessey Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will order companies that do business with the federal government to pay their workers a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour as part of his effort to advance his agenda without cooperation from Congress.
The president will announce plans to sign the new executive order in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, according to a White House fact sheet. The order will apply to new contracts between the government and companies that supply it with goods and services.
The order would reach only a fraction of the millions of minimum-wage workers in the U.S., but it would provide a raise to several hundred thousand people. Most of those affected are janitors who clean federal buildings, cafeteria workers and some laborers on federal construction projects.
Obama called for a minimum-wage increase in his State of the Union address last year and is expected to repeat that call this year. White House officials have focused on pushing legislation drafted by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., that would lift the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.
In the face of solid opposition from Republicans, who argue the move would hurt employers and slow job growth, the wage bill has not gotten very far. Some Democratic strategists believe, however, that it could get through Congress this year, with members facing reelection.
In the meantime, as the president tries to rebound from a bruising year, the White House is eager to show Obama is moving ahead with his plans, even if only in increments.
Aides say the president’s prime-time speech will highlight several other initiatives — on job training, long-term unemployment and education — that don’t require congressional approval.
Obama is scheduled to travel later this week to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin to promote the plans. He’s slated to visit a Costco in Lanham, Md., on Wednesday. The White House document praises the wholesaler for supporting past minimum-wage increases.