President Obama signed an executive order Feb. 12 to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to 10.10 an hour from the current $7.25 per hour, fulfilling a pledge he made during the State of the Union address.

Under the order, effective Jan. 1, 2015, workers under new contracts and replacement agreements for expiring contracts will have to be paid at least $10.10 an hour. Obama said the wage hike will “promote economy and efficiency” and will “boost the economy, “the president said.

He also said he wants his action to spur congressional action to increase the minimum wage for all workers. More than 20 states have raised the minimum wage above the $7.25 an hour level required by federal law.

“Every American deserves to know where your elected representative stands on this issue,” he said. “So ask your senator, ask your representative in the House, do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. If they say yes, tell em good job. … If they say no, be polite, don’t just yell at them but say, ‘Why not?’ Ask them to reconsider siding with an overwhelming majority of Americans. Encourage them to say yes, give America a raise.”

“A majority of Americans – not just Democrats, not just independents, but Republicans too – support raising the minimum wage,” Obama said. “It’s the right thing to do. So that’s something Congress should keep in mind this year.”

The Obama executive order came on the heels of pleas to the House Economic Matters Committee on Feb. 11 from Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D), Ben Jealous, former NAACP national president, Attorney General Doug Gansler, and Sheila Brooks, President of the President’s Roundtable, a consortium of Maryland Black business owners, to raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016.

“No one should be working full-time, trying to support a family and build a better life, while still living in poverty,” Brown said in a statement. “Success in our state isn’t a zero-sum game. The truth is that each of us is strengthened when all of us succeed, and by raising the minimum wage we’re going to give all Marylanders the opportunity to get ahead.”

“I would ask any business leader out there, any governor, any mayor, any local leader listening: Do what you can to raise your employees’ wages,” said Obama.

Republicans argue that raising wages would dampen the economy and shrink hiring by small businesses. In a Democratic congressional retreat Feb. 14, Obama said his action reflects how his party addresses the working class.

“These are folks who are looking after families and trying to raise kids, and to see what it would mean to them for us to have a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, how much relief that would give them, and how committed they were to the American dream and getting ahead, and hoping somebody was standing up for them,” Obama said, “It reminded me of why I’m a Democrat.”