The PJ Tatler

D.C. Delegate Wants Food, Custodial Workers to Get Shutdown Pay

D.C.’s delegate to Congress introduced a bill to give back pay to the retail, food and custodial workers affected by the government shutdown.

The Low-Wage Federal Contractor Back Pay Act of 2013 would amend the continuing resolution and apply to all three branches of the federal government.

“The idea for the bill was brought to my attention by these federally contracted service workers, some of whom work here on the Capitol grounds providing Members of Congress and congressional staff with daily services,” Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said in introducing the bill.

“Many federally contracted workers in federal agencies earn little more than the minimum wage with few, if any benefits, and while others are unionized with little better wages, all are the lowest paid workers in the federal government and should not be punished because Congress failed to do its job and keep the government functioning for 16 days. Congress did the right thing when it gave back pay to federal employees, who work in the same buildings as these low-wage service workers,” Norton said. “However, both groups of workers were victims who deserve to be made whole.”

Norton said she recognizes “that contract workers are employees of contractors, but the distinction between federal workers and at least the lowest-paid service workers who serve the federal government and its employees and keep, for example, their premises clean, fails when it comes to a deliberate government shutdown.”

“Unlike many other contractors, those who employ low-wage service workers have little latitude to help make up for lost wages,” she said. “Low-wage federally contracted service workers could least afford the loss of pay during the shutdown, and should not now have to go to work every day with everyone else in their federal buildings having received back pay except for them.”

“The nation’s capital is the high-profile home of the federal government’s collusion with those that pay low wages through leases and contracts with federal agencies. At least this legislation would provide some parity to these low-wage federal contractor workers.”

Original cosponsors are Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).