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Democratic AGs file brief supporting $15 minimum wage for federal contractors


(The Center Square) – A group of 22 Democratic attorneys general is urging a federal appeals court to allow the federal government to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour for some federal contractors.

President Joe Biden’s executive order in April 2021 increased the minimum wage, which was set at $10.10 per hour in 2014. The U.S. Department of Labor made a final ruling to implement the increase in November 2021.

Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi challenged the validity of the executive order and claimed the implementation was unlawful in a lawsuit. It alleged Biden exceeded his authority outlined in the Administrative Procedure Act and was unconstitutional under “the nondelegation doctrine and the Spending Clause,” according to the brief.

The district court ruled in favor of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi and stopped the government from enforcing the directive in those three states. The Biden administration then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“Colorado law ensures that workers are able to earn a livable wage,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement. “When the federal government hires a contractor, it is entitled to ensure that they are a responsible company committed to paying its workers fairly. This rule does just that, raising the minimum wage floor set a decade ago.”

Weiser and the 21 other attorneys general argue the executive order doesn’t carry the weight of a violation of doctrine.

“Although raising the minimum wage for this group of workers will yield important benefits, defendants’ actions do not implicate questions of sufficient economic and political significance to warrant application of the major questions doctrine,” the brief states. “But even if the major questions doctrine were implicated, there is no basis to conclude that the president acted outside of his statutory authority or in tension with past practice; rather, his actions are in line with those taken by his predecessors under the Procurement Act.”

The brief notes President Obama’s executive order raised the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contractors in 2014 and President Trump issued an executive order in 2018 exempting certain seasonal recreation providers from the minimum-wage requirement.

Weiser’s group also argues raising the minimum wage for federal contractors provides significant benefits to their states.

“Indeed, a number of studies and reports – including those that focus on state and local increases in contractor wages – confirm that raising the minimum wage improves the productivity and performance of employees, reduces turnover and increases recruitment and retention of high-quality workers,” the brief says.

Joining Colorado are attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.