President Obama signed an Executive Order Wednesday increasing the minimum wage for new federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.

“It’s the right thing to do,” President Obama said in an email announcement. “But what’s more, companies have found that when their employees earn more, they’re more motivated, they work harder, and they stick around longer. You should expect the same of your federal government.” The increase will apply to new contractors.

Obama announced in his State of the Union speech in January that he will push Congress to pass the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which would raise the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 in three phases for all US workers. The bill is still awaiting action, but if it passes, 28 million workers would benefit, many of whom will be lifted out of poverty.

With the current minimum wage, a full-time worker earns only $14,500 per year, below the federal poverty line even for a family of two. Fast food workers and other minimum wage earners have been fighting for the past two years to raise the minimum wage even higher to $15, arguing that the proposed $10.10 would still not provide a living wage.

Twenty-one states have taken action on their own and now have higher minimum wages than the federal wage. Virginia may be the next to increase it, after the state Senate just approved a bill to increase the state’s minimum from $7.25 to $9.25 by 2015.

Media Resources: The White House; The Washington Post 2/11/14; Govtrack.us; Feminist Newswire 10/17/13, 12/5/13, 1/29/14, 1/31/14

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