The Office of Personnel Management has announced a $15 minimum wage for federal civilian employees, a move the office said will affect 67,000 workers.

“As the largest employer in the country, how the federal government treats its workforce has real impact,” said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja in a Jan. 21 statement. “The Biden-Harris Administration believes that the federal workforce should be treated with dignity and respect. Raising pay rates across the federal government to a minimum of $15 per hour reflects our appreciation for the federal workforce and our values as a nation.”

A $15 hourly wage would result in a $31,200 annual salary before taxes, assuming a 40-hour workweek.

Ahuja went on to say the new minimum wage will provide a number of benefits to the federal government, including better recruitment and retention as well as increased productivity.

“It’s also the right thing to do,” she added. “We should strive for every federal job to be a good job, and we want to ensure that every federal employee has a pathway to the middle class. Increasing pay rates to at least $15 per hour will keep the federal government competitive in the marketplace and is another way that we can serve as a model employer, setting a high bar for other sectors to follow.”

Of the 67,000 affected employees, 56,000 work within the Department of Defense.

“This pay increase is an important step for the civilian men and women who support the military community and their families,” said Department of Defense Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros in a statement. “It’s also well-deserved. And as the lead agency for administering the Federal Wage System, the Department of Defense will implement this change to benefit all federal agencies.”

OPM issued a memorandum with guidance on how to implement the directive to executive departments and agencies, with the goal of having the new minimum wage in place by Jan. 30.

The new $15 minimum wage for federal employees follows President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce, issued his first week in office. That executive order marked the beginning of a 100-day initiative to require federal contractors to pay their employees a $15-per-hour minimum wage or more, while directing OPM to make recommendations on how to promote a similar minimum wage for federal employees.

A second executive order in April mandated that all federal contract solicitations include a $15 minimum wage clause by Jan. 30, 2022. Vendors already under contract must increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour whenever the contract is extended.

The Biden administration also looked to raise wages for civilian federal employees across the board, seeking a 2.7% average increase in pay in the White House’s fiscal 2022 budget request.

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley praised the new $15 minimum wage for federal civilian employees.

“For the tens of thousands of workers who will start seeing more money in their paychecks each week, this is a transformative policy choice that will improve their everyday lives,” Kelley said in a statement.

“And because 85% of federal workers live outside the DC area, it is hard to imagine a single action that could have a more significant positive impact on all American workers’ paychecks beyond raising the federal minimum wage itself, which would take an act of Congress,” he added. “Setting a new, $15 per hour wage floor for federal government work will encourage employers across the country who are currently paying poverty wages to compete for labor and start paying fairer rates, lifting the wages of American workers across the country.”

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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