Living our values by ensuring a livable wage

Kiran Ahuja, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, explains why making sure the federal workforce earns a minimum wage of $15 per hour is so impor...

On his second day in office, President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14003, which called on the Office of Personnel Management to develop a plan to ensure everyone in the federal workforce earns a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Every federal employee deserves the dignity of decent pay, and OPM is proud to help deliver it. Today, we announced new pay schedules and additional guidance that lifts the pay of federal employees who currently earn less than that threshold. This action will give a raise to approximately 67,000 federal employees and set $15 per hour as the new minimum wage for federal jobs going forward and our guidance directs agencies to implement these changes by Jan. 30.

Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management

Many impacted employees have served the American public on the frontlines throughout the pandemic. With 80% of the federal workforce living and working outside of Washington, D.C., the employees set to receive a raise are in every state across the country. They are clerks and other service personnel who work in military base exchanges supporting our troops, wildland firefighters protecting our communities from wildfires, agricultural inspectors ensuring our food is safe to eat, nursing assistants caring for our veterans’ medical needs and laborers repairing our roads and bridges. They are more diverse than the overall federal workforce, so raising their wages will also narrow racial and gender disparities in income.

For the Biden-Harris administration, this is about more than setting policy — it’s about living our values. Every federal job should be a good job, and every federal employee should have a pathway to the middle class. Increasing pay rates to at least $15 per hour helps us to achieve these goals, and it’s also a good business decision.

Providing a living wage is a win-win for both the employer and the employee. As workers earn more money, productivity and high-quality work increase, while turnover and absenteeism decrease. As a result, higher wages not only position the employer to recruit and retain the best talent for their workforce, but also help reduce supervisory costs and other expenses.

As the largest employer in the nation, the federal government is proud to serve as a model employer. We understand that how we treat our 2+ million team members not only affects those workers, but also sets an example for employers and sectors across the country. Increasing economic security for federal employees is one more way we’re doing exactly that.

In this competitive hiring environment, we know workers have choices when it comes to their employment. They weigh things like pay and benefits, workplace flexibilities, and the mission at hand when deciding where to pursue a job. Today’s announcement will put the federal government in an even better position to hire great candidates and set the bar for other employers to follow.

Kiran Ahuja is the director of the Office of Personnel Management.

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