Biden Orders $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Employees, Overrides Trump Orders

Biden Orders $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Employees, Overrides Trump Orders
President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Jan. 20, 2021. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan

President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order that requires federal contractors to pay at least $15 per hour and provide employees with emergency paid leave.

The order instructs the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to agencies that would ensure as many employees as possible get a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Assuming a standard 40-hour workweek, 52 weeks per year, the $15 per hour minimum wage translates to a $31,200 yearly wage before taxes.

"This is something the president talked about on the campaign that, when we are using taxpayer dollars, federal contractors should provide the benefits and pay that workers deserve," said Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, at a press briefing.

In addition, the Biden order removes Trump-era "Schedule F" job classification within the government's career civil service for "employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating positions." Employees converted to Schedule F would lose most of their civil service protections and could be fired at any time.

The new order also overturns a series of executive orders signed by former President Donald Trump in May 2018. Those previous orders made it easier for the federal government to fire poor performers, further limited official time the federal employees can use to conduct union activities, and directed agencies to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements with federal unions under stricter parameters.

Under the newly-signed order, agencies will no longer have to follow those Trump-era labor relations policies.

"In a Biden administration, agencies are no longer under orders to strip long-held rights from contracts, run roughshod over employees and unilaterally impose workplace policies that disrespect their service to our country," National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) National President Tony Reardon said in a statement embracing the changes. The NTEU represents some 150,000 employees of 31 departments and agencies of the U.S. government.

"To be sure, NTEU was in the process of successfully challenging many aspects of the Trump executive orders because they were clearly in violation of civil service laws," Reardon said, adding that his organization looks forward to returning to the bargaining table and negotiating "with more respect for employees and their representatives."

The new signing boosts the number of Biden's executive actions to more than 30. A number of those actions are direct reversals of Trump administration's policies, including the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, the construction of barrier along the U.S.-Mexican border, the travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, and the advisory commission to promote patriotic education in public schools.