Education Secretary Arne Duncan's office is cleaned by an underpaid janitor.
The minimum wage isn't the only wage rate that applies—or should apply—to many federal contract workers, and a group of people who work in Washington, DC, institutions say they're not getting the pay they're legally entitled to. The law in question is the Service Contract Act, which says that certain kinds of service workers on federal contracts should get the prevailing wage. But janitors at the Department of Education, groundskeepers at the National Zoo, and tour bus drivers under a contract with the National Park Service say they haven't been getting the SCA-mandated prevailing wage.
For instance, according to the complaint filed by Good Jobs Nation:
... the entire night-cleaning staff at the 9-story, 465,000 square foot Lyndon B. Johnson Building in the Washington D.C headquarters of the Department of Education, including the janitors who clean the Secretary of Education’s personal office, are being compensated at rates grossly violative of the standards set by the SCA.
1. The legal minimum wage for janitors in Washington DC required by the SCA is currently $11.83 per hour, plus $4.02 per hour in health and welfare benefits, 10-days paid holidays, and up to four weeks of paid vacation depending length of service.
2. The workers who perform janitorial services at the Lyndon B Johnson Building report that they are paid a base wage of between $9.10 and $9.65 per hour, with no fringe benefits, no sick leave or vacation, and four days or fewer paid holidays.
More than $2 an hour plus benefits adds up fast, especially at wage rates that leave workers struggling to pay the most basic bills.
A report from Good Jobs Nation notes that, as union density and bargaining power decline, so does the prevailing wage, weakening the effects of the SCA. Employers also use loopholes to keep from paying workers the prevailing wage, and Department of Labor enforcement has been heavily reliant on worker complaints—and few workers are aware that complaining is an option or are able to do so.
Dave Jamieson reports that the General Services Administration is looking into the complaint about the Education Department offices.
Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.
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