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Nick Wakeman

Contractors caught in political theater

The big line I’m seeing from President Obama’s state of the union address is the words: If you won’t, I will.

That’s the president’s message to Congress: If you won’t act on issues, I will.

The president got an early jump on that promise by announcing that he would sign an executive order ahead of the address that would raise the minimum wage for contractors to $10.10 an hour.

While the real impact among the IT, professional services and other high-tech companies that read Washington Technology is minimal, there are still several factors to look at.

The president wants to raise the minimum for all workers from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2015. The move is part of the administration’s push to lower the number of people leaving in poverty. But without help from Congress, he can’t do it.

So, the executive order addresses the one part of the labor force that he does have some control over, and that’s government contractors.

It’s political theater because the vast majority of contract workers are already making more than $10 an hour. The Professional Services Council also was quick to point out that existing laws such as the Service Contract Act already give the Labor Department the power dictate wages.

But the president wants to send a concrete message to Congress that he’s going to do as much as he can with or without them to advance his agenda.

That’s what president’s do. This isn’t a Democratic thing or a Republican thing. It’s a president versus congress thing.

I get that, but it’s unfortunate that contractors are being singled out. There is already enough anti-contractor sentiment going around right now; some is justified, but a lot isn't.

It’s a perception thing. “We are deeply concerned with any implication that federal contractors are paying substandard wages,” PSC President Stan Soloway said in a statement.

At times, it seems that contractors have become convenient whipping boys for multiple ills.

There also concerns about how the executive order will be implemented. PSC says they have been assured that there will be input from all stakeholders. Hopefully, that will be the case.

While I’m confident that most of our readers will not feel this executive order directly, it still puts contractors front and center in a national debate. We’ll have to pay attention to how this rolls out.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 29, 2014 at 1:14 PM


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