Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) yesterday introduced a bill with 11 original cosponsors to grant back pay to federally contracted retail, food, custodial and security service workers who were furloughed during last month's federal government shutdown. The bill, which would amend the current continuing resolution, would apply to all three branches of the federal government.
"Low-wage federally contracted workers should not be punished because Congress failed to do its job and keep the government functioning for 16 days," said Norton. "They deserve to be made whole just like the federal employees they work alongside of every day, who rightly received back pay."
Besides Norton, the original cosponsors are Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Andre Carson (D-IN), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), John Conyers (D-MI), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
Norton's introduction statement follows.
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the Low-Wage Federal Contractor Employee Back Pay Act of 2013
Ms. Norton. Mr. Speaker, today, I introduce the Low-Wage Federal Contractor Back Pay Act of 2013, to grant back pay to federally contracted retail, food, custodial and security service workers who were furloughed during last month's federal government shutdown. The bill, which would amend the current continuing resolution, would 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.
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. However, both groups of workers were victims who deserve to be made whole. I recognize, of course, 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. 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.
I strongly urge my colleagues to support the legislation.