Federal Contractors Go on Strike

The strikers are calling on Mr. Obama to issue an executive order to ensure that government contracts are awarded only to employers that pay living wages. In support of their cause, fifteen senators have sent a letter to Mr. Obama, urging him to use his executive authority to require federal agencies to give preferential treatment to companies vying for contracts that pay at least $10.10 an hour and provide benefits (still low, but better than what many workers receive now). Forty eight congressional Democrats sent a similar letter.

The next move is the administration’s. In early 2010, White House officials and labor advocates told The Times that the administration was planning to change the way it awarded federal contracts to give an edge to companies that offer better pay and benefits. At the time, it was estimated that 400,000 federal contract employees earned less than $22,000 a year — then, the federal poverty line for a family of four. The plan was specifically seen as a way to lift more families into the middle class.

About 175 federally contracted workers who serve food, sell souvenirs, and do maintenance went on strike in front of the White House to encourage the president to sign an executive order making it so that only employers who pay their employees at least $10.10 an hour are eligible for government contracts, which are funded with tax-payer dollars. In the Times, Teresa Tritch argues that companies that receive federal contracts should not be “allowed to pay wages that are so low as to ensure that typical workers qualify for Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance, in effect, forcing taxpayers to subsidize ostensibly private-sector businesses.”

Photo: Sean Hayford O’Leary



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