Obama’s Executive Order on Minimum Wage Increase: Is it Legal?

The Paralegal Resource
January 29, 2014 — 1,415 views  
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When President Obama made his State of the Union Address, he drew attention to the chasm between the haves and the have-nots, and announced an Executive Order which will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers in the future.

In his speech, the President said, “Those at the top have never done better,” “But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.”

Legal or Not?

However, doubts have been raised if the President has the legal authority to sign such an order. Republican Steve King says the President’s use of executive orders, thereby bypassing Congress, is unconstitutional. Also, House speaker John Boehner has hinted on the likelihood of legal action if Obama’s actions step too much into the legislative turf.

The President’s authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 seems to have been invoked, but legal experts such as the Associate Dean for Government Procurement Law Studies at George Washington Law School are not fully convinced whether the increase in wages paid by contractors is under that framework. He points out that the law requires steps to be taken to ensure the procurement procedures are efficient and economic. The question is whether an increase in the minimum wage will serve business better, but as a blanket case of raising minimum wage, there are legal issues over President Obama’s move.

In the light of such a development, a legal professional needs to understand and explain to others what exactly an executive order is. It is defined as any directive issued by the leader of the executive. However, in all of history, only two executive orders have been overturned by the judiciary.

Why are Executive Orders Controversial?

Executive orders give way to criticism because they let the President make decisions without the Congress’ approval or consent. This is against the grain of the basic tenet of the Constitution which says that nobody has the power to act in a unilateral fashion.

This new approach of President Obama, being referred to as the “pen and phone” method shows a President who is in a hurry and “can’t wait”, and has come under attack by many experts who think these actions are not in the constitutional framework. However, such steps are being seen as pro-active and decisive by his supporters, who claim that it is the only way to get important policy changes implemented.

The Paralegal Resource