Kiran Ahuja, the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), announced that the Biden administration has raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour for federal civilian employees. This is in alignment with an executive order that President Joe Biden issued in his early days in office.
With this announcement, OPM issued a memorandum for heads of Executive departments and agencies that provides implementing guidance to help agencies adjust pay rates for General Schedule (GS) and Federal Wage System (FWS) employees stationed in the U.S., and also guidance on how to use administrative authority to adjust other pay systems in order to lift the pay of federal employees who currently make less than $15 per hour.
All in all, the new changes will impact 67,000 out of 2.2 million federal employees. Over 56,000 of these employees currently work at the Department of Defense.
OPM’s updated guidelines order agencies to implement these changes by January 30th, 2022.
“As the largest employer in the country, how the federal government treats its workforce has real impact,” said Kiran Ahuja, Director of the Office of Personnel Management. “The Biden-Harris Administration believes that the federal workforce should be treated with dignity and respect. Raising pay rates across the federal government to a minimum of $15 per hour reflects our appreciation for the federal workforce and our values as a nation. We know that paying a living wage provides a myriad of benefits, from recruitment to retention to increased productivity, and more. It’s also the right thing to do. We should strive for every federal job to be a good job, and we want to ensure that every federal employee has a pathway to the middle class. 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, setting a high bar for other sectors to follow.”
President Biden signed an Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce during his first week in office, which directed the Director of OPM to provide a report to the President with recommendations to support a $15 per hour minimum wage for federal employees. That report was submitted to the White House and this week’s issued directions reflect the report’s findings.
The Departments of Defense, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs encompass the majority of the people employed who currently make less than $15 per hour. However, the $15 minimum rate policy applies to all executive branch agencies (excluding the U.S. Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission which are legally outside the scope of OPM’s authority). Many of the federal employees who will benefit from this wage increase have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, working tirelessly to serve the American public.
Federal employees who will benefit from the raise live in every state in the country and occupy a variety of professions that are essential to delivering important services to the American taxpayer. Examples are listed below—
- Around 130 Wildland Firefighters in many locations coast-to-coast throughout the country, from New Hampshire to California;
- Around 400 Plant Protection Technicians, including some in high-cost areas such as Hawaii, who help ensure properties such as farms are accurately inspected for the presence of harmful plants, insects, and plant diseases;
- Around 3,800 Custodial Workers, including some in VA Medical Centers whose contributions are absolutely essential to providing our veterans with the best possible care; and
- Around 50,000 Department of Defense employees of non-appropriated fund activities at military bases around the country who provide essential services to our military, including many who are military spouses.
“Whether they are on the front lines of our food industry, in the fight against climate change, protecting farms from invasive species or our communities from devastating wildfires, each of USDA’s employees deserve to be fairly compensated for their talents and for all the important work they do for our country,” said U.S Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As we work to build a better America and make USDA a great place to work, it is important that our employees understand that we value their hard work to support our farmers, ranchers and producers, to fight food and nutrition insecurity, to combat climate change, and to deliver results for the American people. Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s leadership in advancing pay equity, approximately 2,000 USDA employees will see their pay increased.”
“Of the nearly 67,000 affected federal employees, 9,700 are from VA,” said U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough. “These employees include VA food service workers and housekeeping personnel. They are critical front-line employees, central to patient safety and improved outcomes for Veterans in the fight against the continued COVID-19 pandemic.”
“This pay increase is an important step for the civilian men and women who support the military community and their families,” said U.S. Department of Defense Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, the Honorable Gilbert Cisneros. “It’s also well-deserved. And as the lead agency for administering the Federal Wage System, the Department of Defense will implement this change to benefit all federal agencies.”