Nearly 100,000 Affected Federally Contracted Workers in DC Area
Introduction of City Council Resolution Comes on Heels of Federally Contracted Low-Wage Worker Strikes in DC
Workers Seek Living Wage, Voice on the Job; Aim to Get Economy Moving Again
Washington – Hundreds of low-wage workers employed under federal contracts, concessions, and leases applauded the DC City Council for introducing a resolution today calling on their employers and the federal government to provide them with living wages. This comes on the heels of a strike by low-wage workers and a call on the President to ensure a living wage for the workers, part of a hidden army of nearly two million low-wage workers across the country under arrangements with the federal government.
“I have cleaned bathrooms at Union Station for five years, but I still only make $8.25 – not enough to live on,” said Maria Pletiez, who went on strike two weeks ago. “I want to thank the City Council for supporting us in our efforts to get the federal government to pay us enough to put a roof over our heads and food on the table without having to depend on public assistance.”
The sense of the council, which was introduced today by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), calls on the employers of these workers and the federal government to ensure workers employed in DC under arrangements with the federal government are paid a living wage and have rights to paid sick leave and other benefits. The council is expected to vote on this resolution on July 2. If it is adopted, copies of the resolution will be sent to President Obama, secretaries of the Departments of Labor, Transportation and the Interior, the administrator of the GSA and the Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian Institution.
Last month, the workers announced the launch of their organization, Good Jobs Nation, and called on President Obama to ensure contractors pay a living wage and improve working conditions for all those employed by federal dollars. This campaign is just another sign that labor unrest is spreading as workers in low-paying jobs are fed up with stagnant wages and a lack of economic opportunity. The last couple months have seen combined fast-food and retail worker strikes in Milwaukee and the largest-ever fast food strikes in Detroit, as well as recent strikes in New York City, St. Louis, Seattle and Chicago and the nationwide walkout by Walmart workers.
The Good Jobs Nation workers are employed by private businesses on behalf of the U.S. government to serve the American public—working in the food courts at government buildings like Union Station and the Ronald Reagan Building, greeting visitors and selling memorabilia at the Smithsonian Museums, driving trucks hauling federally-owned loads and making military uniforms for our troops.
Low-wage jobs have accounted for the bulk of new jobs added in the recovery, but a recent Demos report found that the federal government is the largest low-wage job creator – with nearly 2 million low-wage workers employed under government contracts, loans and leases, including nearly 100,000 working under federal contracts in the DC area alone and even more in the area working under other arrangements with the federal government.
While these jobs are spread across the country, the effects of this invisible workforce are especially devastating for the local economy in the DC-metro area with so many affected workers here. Without better wages, not only are these workers unable to put money back into the local economy – they are also left to rely on public assistance programs to try to get by.
In 2011, 15 cents from every dollar in the federal procurement budget flowed through just one metropolitan area: Washington, D.C. The Washington region was the destination for $80 billion in contracting spending, according to analysis by Stephen Fuller of George Mason University. According to the latest data, the basic economic security standard for an adult with one child in Washington, D.C., is $30.31 per hour – a far cry from DC’s $8.25 minimum wage.
A growing coalition of community organizations, clergy, and labor groups, including Empower DC, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Change to Win, OUR DC and Jobs with Justice, have voiced their support for the workers’ efforts.
“Federal contractors make millions while their employees are barely able to make ends meet, and the President can do something right now to lift these workers out of poverty, so they can contribute to local businesses and boost the economy,” said Travis Dupree of OUR DC. “I want to thank Councilman McDuffie and the City Council for showing leadership on this issue, which affects nearly 100,000 workers in the DC-area working under federal contracts along, but we need to make sure all these workers get a living wage – not just those in DC. This isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the right thing to do for our economy.”
Good Jobs Nation is a new organization of low-wage workers employed by government contractors who are joining together for a living wage and a voice on the job. The Good Jobs Nation campaign is supported by a coalition of clergy and community groups, including Empower DC, OUR DC and Jobs with Justice. More at