The Biden administration directed federal agencies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour, giving a pay boost to 67,000 federal workers in field offices across the country.
Agencies will have until Jan. 30 to implement the pay increase, according to a guidance document from the Office of Personnel Management released Friday.
The announcement from the OPM acts on an executive order President Joe Biden issued in January 2021, directing the office to provide recommendations “to promote” a $15 hourly minimum wage for federal employees. The hourly federal minimum wage now is $7.25, although many federal workers are in one of the 30 states that have raised local minimum wages above that rate.
The pay increase will largely affect workers at the Department of Defense, according to OPM, where over 56,000 workers will be due for a raise under the change.
The Biden administration said the pay bump will help ensure federal employees have a “pathway to the middle class” and set a “high bar” for other employers to follow.
“As the largest employer in the country, how the federal government treats its workforce has real impact,” Kiran Ahuja, director of the OPM, said in a statement. “Increasing pay rates to at least $15 per hour will keep the federal government competitive in the marketplace and is another way that we can serve as a model employer.”
The Biden administration’s move to set a $15 wage floor for federal employees follows a recent rule from the U.S. Labor Department setting a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors that also will take effect Jan. 30.
While Biden campaigned on raising the federal minimum wage to $15, Democrats were unable to include a measure to boost the federal rate in their last coronavirus rescue package.
One of the largest unions representing federal employees said the pay raise for federal employees delivered on Biden’s campaign promise to be the most pro-worker president in U.S. history.
“For the tens of thousands of workers who will start seeing more money in their paychecks each week, this is a transformative policy choice that will improve their everyday lives,” American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.
He noted that because a large share of federal workers live outside of Washington, D.C., “it is hard to imagine a single action that could have a more significant positive impact on all American workers’ paychecks beyond raising the federal minimum wage itself, which would take an act of Congress.”