Press Release

January 16, 2019
Cardin Joins Tina Smith, Colleagues, in Introducing the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act
Senators Want to Make Sure Federal Contract Workers Hurt by Shutdown Receive Their Paychecks

WASHINGTON — Today U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), along with their colleagues Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), introduced legislation to secure back pay for the federal contractor employees who continue to go without pay during the current government shutdown.

The bill — the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act — aims to help low-wage federal contractor employees, including janitorial, food, and security services workers, who have been furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown.

You can read a summary of the bill here, and you can watch a roundtable discussion from earlier today with federal workers about the legislation here.

“Shutdowns hurt everyone, from the furloughed federal worker to the contract employee who loses pay to the Americans who suffer because government services are degraded. Our low-wage workers, especially, are feeling the sting of being locked out of their jobs,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to end the Trump shutdown now and prevent them from happening in the future.”

“This bill is about helping a group of people who are often invisible—people who work in the cafeterias, who clean offices after everyone else goes home, security guards who keep our buildings safe overnight,” said Senator Smith. “These low- and mid-wage federal contract workers have had to go without pay for weeks now, and in past shutdowns, haven’t received back pay. That’s wrong and that’s what my bill is trying to fix.”

“From kitchen workers and maintenance staff to janitors and construction workers, federal contractor employees perform some of the most thankless yet essential jobs for our government. These men and women do much of the tireless, behind-the-scenes work to support our government every day. These are often low-wage jobs that require these workers to live paycheck to paycheck. They should not be punished for a shutdown they had nothing to do with. They should not be deprived of their livelihood and that’s why I’m proud to join Senator Smith and my other colleagues in introducing legislation to address this urgent and critical issue,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Every day President Trump refuses to open the government, he is taking money out of the pockets of hardworking people. The President needs to do his job and stop hurting the people who make this country work,” said Brown.

“Thousands of people across the Commonwealth are out of a job right now because of President Trump’s unnecessary, destructive shutdown. Right now many low- and middle-wage federal contractors – whose paychecks often depend on the number of hours they work – are worrying about how they’ll afford to keep the lights on or pay their rent,” said Senator Warner. “Congress has already passed legislation to secure back pay for federal workers. Federal contractors – especially those who are already working paycheck to paycheck – deserve some peace of mind too. This important bill will ensure that federal service contractors, who work side-by-side with federal employees, get the pay they missed out on because of President Trump’s reckless shutdown.”

“Just like federal employees, federal contractors work hard to keep our government running. So many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck and this painful shutdown has meant that many of them can’t afford to pay their bills. This legislation is an effort to ensure that these contractors who have been denied pay during a shutdown they had no role in causing receive the pay they deserve,” said Senator Kaine.

The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act, which is also supported by Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) would:

  • Ensure federal contractors get reimbursed for providing back pay, up to 200% of the federal poverty level for a family of four.
  • Provide accountability in the equitable adjustment process by including ways for protection of taxpayer funds.
    • Contractors would submit evidence of costs for review and approval by the agency’s contracting officer.
    • Contractors are already required to keep records of employee pay practices, so this doesn’t create a new obligation for those contractors.
  • Cover employees employed under the Davis-Bacon Act (which governs federally-funded construction projects) and the Service Contract Act (which governs federal service contracts).

You can read a summary of the bill here.