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White House Won't Say How Many People Will Benefit from Minimum Wage Executive Order

1:19 PM, Jan 28, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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"President Obama plans to sign an executive order requiring that janitors, construction workers and others working for federal contractors be paid at least $10.10 an hour, using his own power to enact a more limited version of a policy that he has yet to push through Congress," reports Peter Baker of the New York Times. "White House officials offered no estimate of how many workers would actually be affected either immediately or as contracts are signed and renegotiated over time."

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Elizabeth Cromwell

The White House may be reluctant to give an estimate because the number of people who will benefit is quite small. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a typical janitor or construction worker--the kind of employees that the Times suggests might benefit from the order--already earn more than $10.10 per hour.

Under Obama's executive order, the minimum annual salary for an employee working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year on a federal project would be about $21,000. The median salary for construction workers was $29,990 back in May of 2012, according to BLS. The median salary for janitors was $22,320 at the time. 

Jim Geraghty notes that at the site GovExec.com one federal contractor reports that he hasn't "seen any contract that pays minimum wages. Most of the contractors make more than their counterparts in the private sector."

At a news conference Tuesday, House speaker John Boehner dismissed the president's order as unlikely to help many people. "I suspect the president has the authority to raise the minimum wage for those dealing with federal contracts. But let's understand something: This affects not one current contract, it only affects future contracts with the federal government. And so I think the question is, how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero," Boehner said, according to the Washington Post

Boehner went on to criticize the broader push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for all employees, saying it would put some low-income workers out of jobs: 

“I used to be an employer. When you raise the cost of something, you get less of it,” Boehner said, according to ABC. “We know from increases in the minimum wage in the past that hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans have lost their jobs, and so the very people the president purports to help are the ones who are going to get hurt by this."

"When you look at African-Americans and Hispanics, they’re the people who never have a chance to get on the economic ladder," Boehner added. 

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