Labor Secretary Marty Walsh announces $15 minimum wage for federal contractors during visit to Birmingham

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh speaks at Kelly Ingram Park on Nov. 22, 2021 with union workers standing behind him.

Cody Short, WBHM

An estimated 327,000 people across the country could see a pay increase under a new U.S. Department of Labor rule announced Monday. Starting January 30, federal contractors will be required to pay workers a new $15-an-hour minimum wage. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh spoke about the policy during a trip to Birmingham. 

“The raise comes at a time to match historic federal investments,” Walsh said in reference to the infrastructure package President Biden signed into law last week. “It’s going to create millions of new jobs with construction and other new jobs that will spin-off of that.”

The new rule stems from an executive order Biden issued on April 27. The wage rate will adjust annually based on inflation.  It applies to new contracts along with renewals and extensions of existing contracts.

Walsh met with residents and union workers from across the southeast at Kelly Ingram in downtown Birmingham, the site of the iconic civil rights Children’s March in 1963. He said he wanted to make the wage announcement in Birmingham because of the city’s historic significance in fighting for racial justice. 

“The black community has been the driving force in the fight to raise the minimum wage all across this country and right here in Birmingham,” Walsh said. “It will especially help women and workers of color, who too often get underpaid. And it will have a big impact here in the south.”

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who spoke at the rally, said Alabamians deserve fair wages.   

“In the state of Alabama minimum wage is $7.25 and it’s simply not enough to be able to provide for our families. We know that and we are trying every day to make sure that we’re uplifting the standards of safety as well as wages for all Americans,” Sewell said.

Carolyn Morris, a federal contractor and union member at U.S. Steel in Birmingham, said she gets paid $11.80 an hour.

“Making $15 an hour will mean so much to me and my family. It’s hard making ends meet. The expenses of a household costs so much now,” Morris said.

This new rule applies to people with disabilities. It also does away with what’s known as the tipped minimum wage. That means tipped workers are paid a lower wage with tips expected to make up the difference. Tipped workers will be paid the full minimum wage by 2024.


Birmingham mayor proposes largest city budget ever

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin introduced a $517 million budget proposal, the largest in city history, during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

‘Better isn’t good enough’: Starbucks workers in Birmingham, New Orleans discuss unionizing

Starbucks stores in Birmingham and New Orleans could be the next to unionize. Those leading the efforts sit down to discuss why and what they've learned so far.

WBHM to launch podcast featuring in-depth reporting on Alabama’s prisons.

WBHM 90.3 FM is launching a podcast, “Deliberate Indifference: the story of Alabama’s prison crisis and the people inside it,” the product of reporter Mary Scott Hodgin’s in-depth research on Alabama’s prisons. The first episode will be available Wednesday, May 18. Listen at or wherever podcasts are available.

Judge’s ruling a “sigh of relief” for families of transgender youth

A federal judge in Alabama ruled to block part of a law that makes it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to minors on Friday. Families with transgender kids tell WBHM they are cautiously relieved.

Transgender medication law in Alabama blocked by judge

The law made it a felony to prescribe gender-affirming puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors. U.S. District Judge Liles Burke issued a preliminary injunction to stop the state from enforcing the medication ban, which took effect May 8, while a court challenge goes forward.

JeffCo Probate Judge: tightened security will delay voting returns in the primaries

Jefferson County’s chief election official is warning that a new voting security measure will delay returns from the May 24 primary elections.

More Front Page Coverage