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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown joined his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Floor today to continue fighting to secure back pay for federal contractor employees who went without pay during the last government shutdown. Last week, the Senators filed an amendment to Senate appropriations measures that would provide those workers, many of them low-wage, with back pay. The House of Representatives already passed back pay for government contractors, but it continues to sit in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard.
Brown and his colleagues believe it is unacceptable that Mitch McConnell took out back pay language from the House-passed appropriations bills, and they are working to right that wrong in Senate appropriations bills.
In January, Brown joined his colleagues in introducing the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act. This legislation would secure back pay for the federal contractor employees who continue to go without pay during the current government shutdown. During the shutdown, Brown met with TSA and food service workers who were being hurt by the shutdown last week, and shared the stories of hardworking Americans who suffered as a result of President Trump’s temper tantrum.
A copy of Sen. Brown’s floor remarks, as prepared for delivery, appear below:
Thank you to my colleague Senator Smith for all of her work to fight for the federal contract workers who are still suffering because of President Trump’s disastrous shutdown earlier this year.
These workers went without paychecks – and unlike federal employees, many never received any back pay at all.
A lot of Americans don’t realize that thousands of janitors and cafeteria workers and security guards spent weeks out of work because of President Trump.
They’re employed by private contractors, not the government, and they’re paid too little to begin with – often $10 or $12 or $15 an hour. And they have no way of making up those lost hours and lost wages.
Missing a paycheck may not seem like a lot to the billionaire president and his multi-millionaire cabinet, with their massive investment portfolios.
But for most Americans, missing a paycheck is a big deal.
The president doesn’t understand that working people couldn’t just send a letter to creditors, saying please excuse me from paying rent or paying my mortgage or paying for my medications.
They had to take money out of savings – savings that are pretty hard to build up when you’re barely making above minimum wage.
Or they had to turn to family members, or to credit cards, or to payday lenders.
Some of them are still dealing with that debt.
I remember talking to cafeteria workers in Arlington, Virginia – they’re federal contract workers who serve food at our Smithsonian museums, not government employees.
One of those workers told me: “I have to pay rent, I have other bills, I have a college student in his second semester and he needs help with his books.”
The President of one SEIU local that represents janitors and security officers said that those workers and their families, quote, “will continue to relive the trauma on a daily basis until they are compensated for 35 days of income.”
It’s just another way President Trump has betrayed workers.
He denies workers the overtime pay they’ve earned.
His judicial nominees, from the Supreme Court on down, have proven records of putting their thumbs on the scale for corporations over workers.
The Trump tax cuts were a massive giveaway to the wealthiest one percent and multinational corporations, and left workers behind.
And because of the Trump shutdown, these workers went without paychecks and he’s done nothing to fix it.
It comes back to the Dignity of Work.
All work has dignity. These contract workers – their work has dignity. And if the president understood that, he would make sure they get their paychecks.
The president may not understand that but we do –those of us in this body have the power to fix this, and get these workers their paycheck.
The House already passed back-pay for contractors four months ago.
I ask my colleagues to join us on Senator Smith’s amendment.
Because if you love this country you fight for the people who make it work.