Federally Contracted Workers Bring Labor Fight to Obama’s Front Door

Low-wage workers are making sure the federal government doesn't overlook the labor practices of its own contractors.

By Julianne Hing Sep 25, 2013

Low-wage workers from the nation’s federal workplaces are marching straight to their top executive today to demand fair, living wages from President Obama. It’s expected to be the largest strike yet for workers employed under federal contracts, concessions and lease agreements at workplaces like Union Station, the American Zoo, the Ronald Reagan Building and the Smithsonian Museum. Workers want President Obama to issue an executive order ensuring that federally contracted workers are paid a a living wage.

Backed by Good Jobs Nation, a coalition of workers’ rights and faith groups, workers argue that they’re are paid criminally low wages that force them to turn to public assistance to make ends meet. Folks who can’t retire on their $8.75 per hour janitor pay; fathers who can’t pay all their family’s bills even with full-time work as cooks, and young moms who don’t make enough in tips to make up for the $3 per hour they make as restaurant servers are the people who’ll be marching to the White House today, and delivering personal letters to Obama to demand some action. 

Mega corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s are the most visible employers of the low-wage economy and indeed, in the last year low-wage workers from those very companies have staged broad public actions to demand fair pay, but Good Jobs Nation argues that big-box and fast-food companies are hardly the worst offenders. The U.S. government creates two million low-wage jobs, according to Good Jobs Nation, compared with the 600,000 low-wage jobs McDonald’s is responsible for, or Walmart’s 900,000.

The Labor Department is also investigating Good Jobs Nation’s formal complaint that federally contracted companies owe $1 million in back pay and wages to workers.