Perez: Obama’s pen ‘running out of ink’

President Obama’s administrative push to close the wage gap is going full bore at the Labor Department, the agency’s chief said Wednesday.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez proclaimed that he is resolved to use “every tool in our arsenal” to move forward with pay equality initiatives, despite inaction from the divided Congress on a proposed minimum wage hike.

ADVERTISEMENT
“We are using our pen and we are using our phone, as the president says,” Perez said during a speech at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). “And I have good news: the phone’s ringing off the hook at DOL, and the pen’s running out of ink.”

The remarks, an allusion to Obama’s “year of action” in the face of legislative gridlock, come as the liberal-leaning think tank released a report finding that wages for the vast majority of U.S. workers have stagnated in recent decades, while business has flourished.

The EPI study found that pay for nonsupervisory workers in the United States grew just 8.2 percent between 1979 and last year, while American productivity ballooned by nearly 65 percent over the same period.

“They’re receiving a smaller slice of the pie that they helped to bake,” Perez said.

Perez’s relatively brief tenure as Labor secretary has been marked with aggressive regulatory and administrative action on numerous fronts.

On Wednesday, he highlighted the agency’s efforts to implement Obama’s executive order effectively raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors and regulations granting certain wage rights to home health workers.

Perez also cited regulations now in the works that would expand the sphere of employees eligible for overtime pay. He said the agency would propose a draft rule soon.

A pair of regulations, finalized on Perez’s watch last year, set new benchmarks for the number of veterans and disabled people government contractors should hire.

But Congress must act to ensure fair pay for the estimated 28 million Americans now earning minimum wage, Perez said. A raise for that segment of the population would result of a major cash injection into the economy, he argued.

“People don’t have enough money in their pockets because they’re not making enough right now,” he said. “This is a business imperative.”

Legislation raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour stalled in the Senate in late April. There is currently no clear path forward for the proposal.