Alex Brandon / AP

Biden Records Message for Career Feds as He Calls for Boosting Their Minimum Wage

"You're the ones running the show," Biden tells civil servants.

President Biden released a video specifically for career federal employees that agencies have sent around in the opening days of his administration, delivering a message of trust and appreciation from their new chief executive. 

Biden followed up that rhetoric with a series of actionable items on Friday, including a directive that more federal employees earn at least $15 per hour. The president distributed the video and launched the new initiatives as he seeks to establish a new tone and relationship between the political side of the executive branch and the career workforce. 

“We’re a team,” Biden said in the video, which was recorded in the weeks prior to his inauguration but sent out to employees this week. He added he has spent a long time working with agencies as a senator and as vice president and has seen first hand federal employees' commitment. “You’re patriots. You could’ve done a lot of other things with your careers, but you chose public service.”

In the executive order he will sign Friday afternoon, Biden directed the Office of Personnel Management to “develop recommendations to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour.” Most federal employees are paid on a salaried basis as part of the General Schedule, though a small contingent of those workers earn less than $15 per hour. Less than 1% of the 1.5 million GS employees are either GS-1, GS-2, or GS-3, some of whom earn less than Biden’s proposed new minimum wage. Hundreds of thousands of employees are paid hourly through the Wage Grade system, though most of those workers earn more than $15 per hour. 

Brain Deese, Biden’s director of the National Economic Council, said on Friday he did not know how many federal employees earn less than that rate. He also did not have the total for federal contractors, whom Biden also said he would aim to provide the new minimum wage. It was not immediately clear how Biden would accomplish his goal for the federal workforce, as civil service pay rates are generally determined by Congress. 

Biden praised federal workers for their assistance during the transition and added that his nominees all said they are looking forward to engaging their career employees. 

“I know this transition was a little more challenging than usual to say the least,” Biden said. “I commend you for your honor, your professionalism, your integrity.” 

The president said he will lean on career workers and their expertise to address a series of challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, racial equity and others. 

“You’re the ones running the show,” Biden said. “I am thankful for your commitment to public service and to that of your families. We can’t do that without them or you.”

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