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Low-wage workers working at federal contractors continue to push for an executive order guaranteeing federal contract workers a living wage—and Wednesday they did it with a strike at one of the government's most iconic buildings:
Non-union cleaning and concessions workers at the Pentagon plan to walk off the job for the first time Wednesday morning, the latest in a series of federally contracted worker strikes designed to force the president’s hand. Organizers hope dozens from the Pentagon will participate today. They’ll be joined on strike by workers from the Air and Space Museum, Ronald Reagan Building, and Union Station, government-owned buildings where workers have staged a series of past one-day work stoppages for the same purpose.

As I’ve reported, the strike campaign by the coalition Good Jobs Nation – backed by the union federation Change to Win – aims to urge President Obama to wield executive authority to raise labor standards for those employed under federal contracts. Taxes fund around 2 million jobs that pay no more than $12 an hour, according to the progressive think tank Demos; federal contracts worth $81 billion went to companies that had collectively paid out close to $200 million in penalties and back pay, according to congressional Democrats. “Mr. Obama,” said [Pentagon cooking and cleaning worker Jerome] Hardy, “I work hard to serve American heroes, and I shouldn’t end up with zero.”

In December, 220 food service workers at two Smithsonian museums got a union, a significant step but a tiny one in comparison with what the president could do with an executive order.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:29 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think the plan is to see to it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BusyinCA, OooSillyMe

    that veterans are as poorly paid as these folks. People are always wanting money that could go to buy lovely things like airplanes, etc. Solution? Pay people as little as possible. Because we are just plain out of money! Think of all the poor people who are too cheap to pay federal income tax.

    I'm glad these people are striking because work deserves a living wage. I don't think the Pentagon or the House will agree.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 03:07:12 PM PST

    •  capitalism (0+ / 0-)

      Capitalism demands a two class society. anyone that understands the agenda of the game monopoly should understand this. most dont. FDR did no demo has since.

      Give the repub donors credit they get much more for their money than the demo donors.

      •  Let the republicans in congress fill the (0+ / 0-)

        positions...they're always bragging about how much harder they work than liberals, so let them put their work ethic to good use...then allow the strikers to have the same pay and benefits that members of congress enjoy...

        I'd rather see my tax dollars pay the strikers instead of conservative members of congress...and that includes the blue dog democrats.

  •  Union Now (7+ / 0-)

    One small step, one heart and mind and vote at a time.

    Still sad that so many have forgotten that so many died years ago in the struggle for the establishment of things that now are  considered 'rights'. The 40 hour work week. Overtime for work over 40 hours. Holiday pay. Vacation pay. Insurance benefits. Representation in the workplace.

    Of course, we all know that these radical ideas led to equal rights and womens lib, both evils to retrograde tea-publican'ts.

    I'd love to live long enough to see a new union movement. Sadly, so many are brain washed by the constant propaganda and wedge politics. Divide and conquer, still a valid technique.

    Thanks for your devotion to the cause LC.

  •  How exactly would the Executive order work? would (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it set their salary? is it legal?

    •  And if the president does this (0+ / 0-)

      The problem is that if the president does just issue an executive order setting a certain pay for certain non-union government workers, he'll then be bound to use that very same act for every non-union government worker across the country that claims not to be receiving a "living wage".

      I do not think he'll open up that can of worms.  I could be wrong, but I do not see it.

      •  It's a tricky one (0+ / 0-)

        Striking workers at the Pentagon or a can of worms. Good thing the prez will choose the wise course of action. Disaster averted!

        "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". –George Orwell

        by crescentdave on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 02:16:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  But we have money to make Erik Prince wealthy (0+ / 0-)

    Maybe if some of these minimum wage folks did what Blackwater did to "earn" all that money, they could get a higher hourly wage?

  •  Whoda Thunk the Capitol Wouldn't Pay Living Wage (0+ / 0-)

    Capitol Building of The Empire.

    The empire that also conquered the United States.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 07:52:36 PM PST

  •  8.25 in one of the most expensive metro areas in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the country in unconscionable, diabolical. It makes this pacifist feel less pacifistic! Makes me want to knock some scumbag contractors teeth out!

    My brother works at a rest area on I-80.  For a private contractor for minimum f(*&ing wage. So the state of Iowa, I assume, is probably spending about the same amount of money as if they ran it themselves. But instead of the workers getting $12 or $14 an hour and maybe benefits, the scumbag contractor pays them all minimum wage, literally minimum wage, and keeps the rest for himself. Yeah, privatization is the way to go! Feelin' surly tonight. Maybe I should stop reading and watch some Southpark or something?  This kind of shit infuriates me beyond adequate description.  

    Power to the Peaceful!

    by misterwade on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 08:26:30 PM PST

  •  At the Government Building where I work..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... all the janitors were fired and replaced with a once - a - week trash pickup.   We clean our own offices ( at our pay rates ) and the public rooms are generally a mess.  

         Then they fired all the secretaries.   We type our own stuff... well, we did that anyways.   But all the tasks a good organizational person does to keep things running.. are now ours.

         Well, thank goodness as a Government Worker myself, I don't contribute anything to the National Defense (TM). *   And isn't it wonderful we got rid of all those lower paying jobs with health benefits and retirement?

    * I work for the military...

    •  Secretaries? (0+ / 0-)

      Those went away in my husband's career years ago (military). The vast majority of military we know work overtime as par for the course just to keep up with it all. Now, with more downsizing (yes, the American public doesn't seem to know that personnel wise the military is getting smaller), there will be even more to do. They're losing another person in the office who won't be replaced yet the mission will not change. That's my problem with all of this. The Administration needs to honestly assess our current strength and put our military where they can work best. But instead, the military is absolutely everywhere and we can't maintain that kind of presence without being huge. We can't have it both ways.

  •  I say good for these workers! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And I hope they are finding vocal support among those that work at the Pentagon. This military spouse thinks they are doing important work by striking - we should raise the minimum wage across the US.

  •  Why aren't these federal jobs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with benefits and civil service protections? I assume they got privatized sometime since 1980, as part of the "shrink government by outsourcing what government used to do" strategy.

    Wouldn't it be cheaper to bring the jobs back in house, increase the pay and benefits, and cut out the middle-man profit-takers?

  •  Can't survive on low wages? (0+ / 0-)

    Get a better job, consider changing careers, get retrained in some skills that pay more. Don't let people tell you it can't be done.

  •  This is difficult . . . . (0+ / 0-)

    . . . . because I think we're mixing apples and oranges.

    Cleaning contractors that work for a firm that contracts with the federal government are directly linked to tax dollars.  The federal government pays tax dollars directly to the cleaning company to provide a service, and (some) of those tax dollars are transferred to the cleaner.  

    Concessions contractors are not linked directly to tax dollars.  A food concessionaire contractor actually pays the federal government for the right to operate in government space.  The food concession contractor gets paid with money that comes from the customer/diner--not with money that comes directly from tax dollars.

    In neither case above are these employees "federal contractors".  A federal contractor contracts directly with the government.  The cleaning workers might be considered to be "federal subcontractors" since their direct relationship is with their employer, not with the federal government.  

    I'm not sure how an executive order could help these employees.  That being said, I think all workers deserve a living wage and benefits.  I would like to see the government reinstitute some of these positions and directly hire cleaners and other staff.  I would also like to see low wage workers organize and join unions to demand what is rightfully theirs.  

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