President Barack Obama promised in his State of the Union speech to raise the minimum wage for people working on federal contracts to $10.10.
But the policy change might not change much at all here in the Valley.
Phoenix in Huntsville provides jobs to disabled people, many who work under federal contract at Redstone Arsenal.
Many employees will spend their time cleaning up after sergeants and secretaries, but before that, they get their training from Tamica Ellington
She knows professional dustbusters can always use an extra dollar or two. Her reaction to a minimum wage hike for federal contracts, “An increase is always good.”
But down the hall from her, her boss ponders the real impact of the president’s promise.
Phoenix President Bryan Dodson is not sure it’ll change many lives for the people Tamica trains, “My first thought was, it’s probably not going to make a difference.”
Turns out Tamica’s pupils usually start above the $10.10 threshhold.
Dodson notes, “We only have one person on one contract that is paid less that $10.10 an hour, and that’s a custodian at the federal courthouse, who is making $10.02 an hour.”
That’s out of over four hundred employees on federal contract from Phoenix.
In fact, the custodians at Redstone usually start around $13- to $16-per-hour.
But before you get worked up about “government waste”, Dawson explains, “Almost half of our custodians would have to have a secret security clearance to be custodians. Well, that’s an expensive process.”
Paying these folks good wages prevents turnover, which prevents excessive costs for the bosses trying to make sure everyone can get their security clearances in order.
Still no matter how the numbers crunch out – any increase, for any person – according to Tamica, “I think it can affect people’s life, in a good way.”
They just won’t pay much mind to it here at Phoenix.