Answering an appeal by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and other liberal lawmakers, President Obama will use his executive power to raise the minimum wage for workers on new government contracts.
Obama will formally announce his plans during his State of the Union address, while also renewing his call for Congress to pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by 2015.
“Working class people in Minneapolis and all over the country are dealing with debt and low pay,” Ellison said in an interview with the Star Tribune prior to the White House announcement. “The president has to chart a reliable path toward economic security.”
Ellison has spoken out frequently about the need for such action and joined low-wage worker rallies around the nation.
The Minnesota Democrat was among 50 members of Congress who signed letters to the president last year, urging him to circumvent Congress on the issue, to “provide labor stability for the low-wage workers on whom these federal agencies rely to fulfill their mission.” Ellison personally handled one of those letters to Obama.
During an interview on News-Talk Radio 1130-AM, Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline said he found Obama's use of unilateral presidential authority "disturbing."
"He's got a pretty solid record of doing that," Kline said. "To threaten more of that, is not helpful."
Last week, Minneaplis Mayor Betsy Hodges heard a preview of Obama’s plans to bypass Congress.
At a White House reception, Obama told 250 members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors that he is prepared to take executive action on a variety of items if Congress can't or won't pass legislation.
"Where Congress is debating things and hasn't been able to pull the trigger on stuff, my administration is going to move forward and we're going to do it in partnership with all of you," Obama said.
Hodges will attend the State of the Union as Ellison’s guest. The two plan to work together to tackle the city’s racial disparities in education, employment and other matters.
“I like the tact that [Obama] is taking around the middle class, making sure that aspiration doesn’t die for people. That belief that if you work hard in the United States of America you can get somewhere,” Hodges said Monday during a joint interview with Ellison.
“As we tackle the disparities that we have in Minneapolis, that is incredibly important.”