Courtney tussles with GOP lawmaker over fast food wages at military bases

Rep. Joe Courtney

Rep. Joe Courtney

Washington – Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Wednesday took on Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia and other Republicans who want to stop a hike in the minimum wage for restaurant workers on the nation’s military bases.

During consideration of the defense authorization bill by the House Armed Services Committee, Rigell introduced an amendment that would exempt military bases from President Obama’s executive order to raise the minimum wage for workers on new federal contracts from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour beginning in January.

“Here we are with an amendment that basically says we are going to pull the plug on an effort to bolster the wages of the lowest-paid workers in our economy,” Courtney said.

Republican lawmakers — and some Defense Department officials — say the wage increases could drive off military bases many fast-food restaurants and the thousands of jobs they provide. They have petitioned the Labor Department to exempt fast-food concessions on military bases from the wage increases.

But Rigell sought to short-circuit the appeal process with his amendment, a move that angered Courtney.

Rigell said he had no confidence that the Labor Department would stop the prospective minimum wage increase at military bases.

“If we don’t act on this, it’s clear this is going to roll out all over the country,” he said.

Rigell’s amendment would also affect the Service Contract Act, which requires federal contractors performing services worth more than $2,500 to pay their employees the prevailing wage in the community.

“It is a major rewrite of what the Service Contract Act should do,” Courtney said. “Which is to extend the same protections to low-income workers which day in and day out seem to be brushed aside by Congress.”

A vote on the Rigell amendment was expected late Wednesday.

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