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Progressives Happy With a Half-Win on Minimum Wage Progressives Happy With a Half-Win on Minimum Wage

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Progressives Happy With a Half-Win on Minimum Wage

Obama's coming executive action will affect only a fraction of the federal workforce. The Progressive Caucus cochairman is still pumped.


Rep. Keith Ellison(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It doesn't matter that President Obama will announce raising the minimum wage for only a fraction of the federal workforce—progressives are ecstatic.

"I'm pumped up," Progressive Caucus Cochairman Keith Ellison said this morning. "I'm so happy that I'm playing Brazilian music here."


The Minnesota Democrat led an effort to push President Obama to raise the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts. And low-wage federal contract workers have been protesting for an increase in pay, since raising the minimum wage for all workers has been a heavy lift in Congress. Obama will announce at tonight's State of the Union that he will raise the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for these workers. But it's only for workers on new contracts, representing several hundred thousand workers. Despite that, progressives are declaring a win.

"We feel great about it. To me, it's evidence that activism works. If you petition your government peacefully for the right thing, something that helps people," it will happen, Ellison said. "It's not always on your timeline.... This is not a complete victory, but we also understood that half of something is better than all of nothing."

Sen. Tom Harkin, the leading Senate advocate for a federal minimum wage increase, is pleased, too. But he isn't satisfied. "This executive order is a strong step in the right direction, and I am grateful for President Obama's leadership," the Iowa Democrat said in a statement. "But as I know the president would agree, it's only a first step."


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