Sen. Tina Smith Continues to Lead Push to Secure Back Pay For Federal Contract Workers Financially Devastated by Shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. [01/29/19]—Today, U.S. Senator Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), continued to lead the push to secure back pay for the thousands of federal contract workers who went many weeks without a paycheck during the 35-day federal shutdown. Unlike federal government employees who returned to work this week, the thousands of federal contract employees—many of whom serve in modestly-paid jobs—have no assurances that they will receive back pay to make up for the wages they missed during the shutdown.

On Tuesday, Sen. Smith was joined at a Capitol Hill press conference by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and a coalition of several other Congressional Democrats to discuss legislation in both the House and Senate that will ensure contract workers receive at least some of the wages they lost during the longest federal government shutdown in history. The lawmakers were joined by several modestly-paid federal contract workers who discussed the devastating financial toll the shutdown took on themselves and their families.

You can watch Sen. Smith’s remarks from the event here.

As the February 15 deadline approaches to enact a final bipartisan agreement to keep the government open, the lawmakers are pressing to have their bills included in the final measure.

“The shutdown isn’t over for thousands of federal contractors and their employees,” said Sen. Smith. “These are people and businesses that work shoulder to shoulder with federal employees to make the federal government work for all of us.  They clean office buildings, keep us safe and secure, and serve millions of meals a year. Too often, these workers are invisible to the public.  I want you to know that those of us here today haven’t forgotten about them.”

 “Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the lead Senate cosponsor of the legislation. “We must take action to ensure all workers get the paychecks they are owed, including janitorial, food service, and other contract workers who were hurt by the President’s shutdown.”

As part of this effort, House and Senate Democrats are pushing for passage of legislation to guarantee back pay for low-wage federally contracted service workers. This follows letters sent from Senators and members of Congress to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking them to look at their existing authority to modify government contracts to allow back pay for these workers.

In the Senate, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) spearheaded the bill along with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). The bill is cosponsored by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Margaret Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In the House, Rep. Pressley (D-MA) in partnership with Rep. Norton (D-DC) introduced the House legislation with cosponsors Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-WA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) Steven Horsford (D-NV), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Trone (D-MD), Jefferson Van Drew (D-NJ), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ).