- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
President Barack Obama is set to use his executive powers and raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour at Tuesday's State of the Union address, the White House announced.
"The President has embraced the idea in the past that he can use his authority as President and the powers available to the President to advance his agenda on behalf of the American people," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a briefing on Monday, according to CNN. "What we have said is that he views 2014 as a year of action and that he has tasked his team to come up with new ways in which we can – he can – advance that agenda."
The decision to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers comes just hours before Obama's fifth annual address to the American people, and is set to benefit several different occupations, including janitors, as well as kitchen, laundry, and construction workers all employed in the government sector. The White House clarified, however, that the increase in minimum wage will affect only new contracts.
Increasingly over the past few months Obama has spoken out about economic inequality, mentioning Pope Francis as a point of inspiration for tackling what he sees as one of the key problems in America.
"So the basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed. In fact, this trend towards growing inequality is not unique to America's market economy. Across the developed world, inequality has increased. Some of you may have seen just last week, the Pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. 'How can it be,' he wrote, 'that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?'" Obama said in a speech in December, referencing the Vatican leader's first major written work, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
At a 2013 address to Congress, Obama called America "the wealthiest nation on Earth" and said that the federal minimum wage should be bumped up to $9 an hour, arguing that no full-time workers should live in poverty.
In a preview of the State of the Union, Fox News noted, however, that in the past many of the president's declarations have not come to fruition.
"From repeated calls to lower the corporate tax rate to last year's declaration that the 'time has come' to pass immigration reform, Obama's State of the Union vows frequently have either run into congressional gridlock or been drowned out by other priorities," Fox wrote.
The 2014 State of the Union is to be delivered at 9:00 p.m. EST, and will be broadcast live on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and FOX.