Biden raises US contractors' minimum wage

·1-min read

US President Joe Biden will press his case for a $US15 ($A19) minimum wage with an executive order raising pay to at least that level for hundreds of thousands of federal contract workers, senior White House officials say.

This would increase their existing minimum wage of $US10.95 by nearly 37 per cent by March 2022 with future increases still tied to inflation.

The workers range from cleaning and maintenance staff to food service contractors and labourers and include tipped workers such as seasonal recreational services and shuttle bus drivers who were left out of the last increase under former president Barack Obama.

Sylvia Walker, a federal contract worker at Maximus, which operates call centres for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called the executive order an "important first step".

"We've fought hard for fair pay and better working conditions, and we are thankful Biden's administration has heard our call to action," Walker said.

Biden made supporting blue-collar workers a priority of his presidential campaign, saying strong unions and higher wages can resurrect the US middle class while helping bridge economic and racial inequities.

The executive order is his latest step in support of the organised labour movement.

On Monday, he signed an order creating a White House task force headed by Vice President Kamala Harris to promote unions and labour organising.

Union membership has steadily declined in the United States in recent years.

Biden tried to insert a federal $US15 minimum wage into the $US1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill signed in March but Congress stripped it from the package after the US Senate parliamentarian ruled it did not qualify under the special budget rules that the Senate used to pass the measure.