Provision Would Make Whole as Many as an Estimated 580,000 Federal Contractor Employees Who Went Unpaid During 35-day Partial Government Shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. [06/11/2019]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) lauded the House Appropriations Committee government spending package for including money for federal contract workers who were not paid during the 35-day partial government shutdown. Sen. Smith and Rep. Pressley introduced companion legislation in January to provide back pay to as many as an estimated 580,000 workers who went without pay during the shutdown. Their bill would require any federal contractor that placed service workers on unpaid leave during the shutdown to provide retroactive compensation to cover wages lost through no fault of their own. Since then, 48 Senators and more than 70 Members of the House have signed on as cosponsors.

“Contractor workers and their families shouldn’t be forced to go without pay due to a government shutdown they did nothing to cause,” said Sen. Smith, who led the Senate effort to secure back pay for federal contractors. “These contractor employees work shoulder to shoulder with federal employees and perform jobs that are critical to the operations of our government like food service, security and custodial work. These are often low-wage jobs that require workers to live paycheck to paycheck—and the shutdown left contractors struggling with unpaid rent and other mounting bills that many of these workers still cannot afford without back pay. I’m glad to see back pay included in this package, and let’s get it over the finish line for American workers.”

“These workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, missed more than a month of pay over the course of the government shutdown and are still struggling to deal with the economic ramifications,” said Congresswoman Pressley, leader of the House bill to provide back pay for federal contractor employees. “The federal government relies on these hardworking men and women, our security professionals, our food service workers, our custodial workers, to keep our government buildings running.  By including back pay in the upcoming spending package, we are one step closer to finally giving our federal contractor employees what they are owed.”

“We are pleased that H.R. 3055 will include backpay for low-wage federal contractors hurt during the 2018-2019 government shutdown,” said Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07). “Even before the government shutdown, many of these employees were living paycheck to paycheck while fulfilling vital functions for the federal government as janitors, cafeteria workers and security personnel. Months later, these families are still grappling with the financial consequences of the 35-day government shutdown – while President Trump and the congressional Republicans responsible for this political dysfunction have left these families behind. The inclusion of backpay in the funding package will bring much-needed and long-overdue relief to these low-wage contractors and their families. We urge President Trump and Senate Republicans to do the right thing and help us get this done.”

“Through no fault of their own, low-wage employees of federal contractors suffered deeply during the government shutdown,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (NY-17). “I am pleased that we have been able to include Representative Pressley’s bill in our appropriations package, a critical step to making low-wage employees whole for the time they went without pay. I commend her leadership on behalf of these public servants.”

“Contracted workers and their families should not continue to be punished for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause,” said Héctor J. Figueroa, President of 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Already living paycheck-to-paycheck, these men and women are still behind on rent and bills they accrued while they were out of work for an entire month. Parents, children and dependents all felt the pain from this life-altering and needless shutdown. Congress should follow Representative Pressley’s responsible lead and practice basic governance by meeting their moral and financial obligation to make contracted workers whole. Before Trump brings our government to the brink of yet another shutdown, we must not let one more day go by without righting this wrong. Most Americans could not survive without 35 days of income – why are contracted workers expected to?”
 
The spending package will head to the House floor for a final passage vote later this month.
 

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