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Norton Pledges Support for Federal Contract Workers

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) spoke today at a Congressional Progressive Caucus press conference featuring low-wage D.C. residents and other low-wage workers, to expose low wages facilitated by the federal government and to announce a study, unveiled today by the public policy organization Demos, examining the low wages and their negative effects on the nation’s economy.

In her statement, Norton said, “By distancing itself from these workers, often through outsourcing, the federal government is betraying its own principles to provide decent wages embodied in laws, such as the Service Contract Act.  The federal government then allows exploitative employers often to pass on to federal taxpayers the cost for health insurance and other benefits that private employers who offer decent wages generally shoulder….  My district is the epicenter of federal collusion with those who pay low wages through leases and contracts with federal agencies…. Many of the workers are my constituents.  All are Americans with families, not nameless workers, whose low pay would dismay many of the patrons they serve every day.  As members of Congress, our job is to shine flood lights so brightly that the federal government can no longer ignore these workers in plain sight.”

Norton’s full statement follows.

“I am pleased to join low wage workers who represent not only themselves but millions of others throughout the country and who are taking on those who pay them low wages, or who condone or are complicit in their low wages, even if the target happens to be the federal government.  Because they call themselves Good Jobs Nation, I hope that their effort wakes up workers at every level who are part of the rapidly declining American middle class.  For the Good Jobs Nation workers, the middle-class has disappeared.  But these low-paid workers are leaving behind the rhetoric about the 99% and are doing something about the unprecedented gap of falling middle class and low-income wages and rising income among the most affluent.  I especially thank Demos for its study that helps these workers at the bottom expose the sources at the top by documenting the active role the federal government plays in the low wages of many workers.

“Our government directly and indirectly subsidizes an awesomely broad range of commercial and retail businesses that pay workers a minimum wage with no benefits.  These workers would command a decent wage if they worked for the federal government itself.  By distancing itself from these workers, often through outsourcing, the federal government is betraying its own principles to provide decent wages embodied in laws, such as the Service Contract Act.  The federal government then allows exploitative employers often to pass on to federal taxpayers the cost for health insurance and other benefits that private employers who offer decent wages generally shoulder.

“This press conference is taking place at Union Station for a reason, and it is not because of its iconic beauty or its historic architecture.  Union Station is emblematic of the many federal institutions through which the federal government enables low wages.  Union Station is federal property, which, like the National Zoo, the Ronald Reagan Building and others, leases or contracts with commercial vendors.  The federal government then washes its hands, leaving these workers to vendors to be exploited with insufficient pay to live on.

“My district is the epicenter of federal collusion with those who pay low wages through leases and contracts with federal agencies.  I therefore have been working with these workers and their representatives at meetings at the Ebenezer Coffee House here and in my office.  Many of the workers are my constituents.  All are Americans with families, not nameless workers, whose low pay would dismay many of the patrons they serve every day.  As members of Congress, our job is to shine flood lights so brightly that the federal government can no longer ignore these workers in plain sight.

“Because I am the ranking member of the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over one of the federal agencies most deeply involved with low-income workers, the General Services Administration, I am working with our Progressive Caucus on a letter to the President to move the federal government from its role as an agent facilitating the low incomes of these workers to change agent, enabling the improvements of wages and benefits they have earned.”

http://www.norton.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3535:norton-pledges-effort-against-low-wages-facilitated-by-the-federal-government-at-press-conference-today&catid=2&Itemid=88


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