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Federal contractors' pay rises to $15 hourly minimum

Employees of federal contractors will make at least $15 per hour under a final rule that the Labor Department announced Monday, providing a likely wage increase for over 300,000 workers, according to administration estimates.

The wage floor will affect contracts that are executed or extended beginning Jan. 30, 2022. The current minimum wage for contractors is $10.95 under a rule enacted by the Obama administration in 2014 and is scheduled to rise to $11.25 on Jan. 1. Both rules require that the minimum wage increase over time to account for inflation.

Paul Light, an expert on the federal workforce at New York University, has estimated that 5 million people work for employers that have federal contracts, including security guards, food workers, janitors and call center workers, but most already make more than $15 per hour. The rule will also apply to construction contracts entered into by the federal government.

Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh said in a statement that the rule "improves the economic security of these workers and their families, many of whom are women and people of color."

President Joe Biden announced the rule in April when he signed an executive order directing the department to issue it. Biden's announcement came amid a series of pro-labor moves by the administration, which included reversing Trump-era rules softening worker protections and enacting legislation that allocated tens of billions of dollars to strengthen union pension funds.

The federal minimum wage remains $7.25 per hour, though many cities and states have laws setting their wage floors substantially higher. The House of Representatives has passed a bill to raise the federal minimum to $15 per hour by 2025, but the legislation has not advanced in the Senate.

 

American, JetBlue ask judge to OK cooperation

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss a government lawsuit aimed at blocking a deal that lets the two airlines cooperate on service in the Northeast.

Lawyers for the airlines said there is no evidence that letting the airlines work together has led to higher fares or reduced service. They said the airlines have already added new routes in the Northeast, creating more competition against Delta and United in the region.

The case is pending in federal district court in Boston.

Under the Trump administration, the Transportation Department allowed American and JetBlue to work together in setting schedules and service in New York and Boston. But shortly after the Biden administration came into power, the Justice Department began taking a new look at the deal.

In September, the Justice Department sued to block the American-JetBlue agreement, saying it will hurt consumers by reducing competition in key air-travel markets. They also argued the deal would make JetBlue less willing to compete against American in other parts of the country.

 

Bezos gives $100 million to Obama foundation

Former President Barack Obama's foundation said Monday it has received a $100 million donation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos that it says is the largest individual contribution it has received to date.

Separately on Monday, NYU Langone Health, a medical center affiliated with New York University, said it has received a $166 million gift from Bezos and his family.

For its part, the Obama foundation said in a statement that the gift from Bezos is intended "to help expand the scope of programming that reaches emerging leaders" in the United States and around the world.

The donation, it said, was also given in honor of John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights icon who died last year. As part of the gift, the foundation said Bezos has asked for the plaza at the Obama Presidential Center, under construction in Chicago's South Side, to be named after Lewis. Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to Obama who serves as the foundation's CEO, said in a statement that the foundation was "thrilled" by that idea.

Bezos' gift to the foundation was first reported by Puck News.

Construction on Obama's legacy project is expected to cost about $830 million and to be completed by 2025. In the meantime, the foundation said it's giving donors the opportunity to "honor and elevate the names of those who have fought for a more just and equitable world" by naming public spaces in the future presidential center.

"Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can't think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage," Bezos said in the statement released by the foundation.

 

Airline passengers fined $160,000

Federal officials said Monday they are seeking more than $160,000 in fines from eight airline passengers over incidents involving alcohol.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the biggest single proposed fine, topping $40,000, involves a passenger who brought alcohol on the plane and drank it, smoked marijuana in the lavatory, and sexually assaulted a flight attendant on a Southwest Airlines jet in April.

Police arrested the passenger after the plane from San Jose, California, landed in San Diego, and charged the person with resisting arrest and public intoxication, according to the FAA. It was not clear why the passenger was not charged with assault. The FAA does not have authority to file criminal charges.

The FAA did not identify any of the eight passengers, who face a combined total of $161,823 in civil penalties, although they have the right to contest the allegations. In some cases, airline crews diverted flights to land more quickly because of the passengers' erratic behavior.

The proposed fines represent the latest salvo in the FAA's attempt to crack down on unruly passengers on planes, a problem that became much more common starting in January. Airlines have reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to the FAA this year.

Most of the incidents have involved passengers refusing to follow the federal requirement for passengers to wear face masks while on planes, but nearly 300 have involved intoxicated passengers, according to the FAA.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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