September 29, 2023

Ahead of Possible Shutdown, Van Hollen, Cardin Join Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Provide Back Pay for Federal Contract Workers

Bill would ensure federal contract workers hurt by GOP shutdown receive back pay

Ahead of a possible Republican government shutdown, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) joined Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) in introducing legislation to secure back pay for the thousands of federal contract workers who face layoffs without back pay during a potential shutdown. Unlike federal government employees, the thousands of federal contract employees – many of whom serve in modestly paid jobs like custodians and cafeteria workers – have no assurances that they will receive back pay to make up for the wages they miss during a shutdown. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.)

The Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act seeks to ensure federal contract workers, including low-wage food service, janitorial and security service workers, are fairly compensated for the wages and benefits lost due to a lapse in appropriations. 

“From cafeteria workers and maintenance staff to janitors and construction workers, federal contract employees do some of the most thankless yet essential jobs to support our government every day,” said Senator Van Hollen. “These are often low-wage jobs that require these workers to live paycheck to paycheck. They never cause government shutdowns, and they don’t deserve to be punished when they happen. We need to pass this legislation as soon as possible to ensure hardworking Americans are not deprived of their livelihoods.”

“Just like federal workers, federal contract workers aren’t the ones responsible for shutting down the government, but they bear the economic brunt,” said Sen. Cardin. “Though we have acted to ensure that all federal employees receive prompt back pay, thousands of federal contractors are currently at risk of losing out on income they rely on, through no fault of their own. It’s not fair, and it’s time to ensure that they get paid for the work they do on behalf of all Americans.”

“This is about fairness—contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause,” said Sen. Smith. “Contractor employees perform jobs that are critical to the operation of our government, providing food service, security, and doing custodial work.  These are often low-wage jobs that mean workers are living paycheck to paycheck. In the past, these workers haven’t received back pay at the end of a government shutdown like the thousands of government employees. And it’s time we right that wrong.”

“As a former hotel worker and unpaid Congressional intern who worked three jobs, I know all too well what it means to live paycheck-to-paycheck and to struggle to make ends meet,” said Rep. Pressley. “Government shutdowns are destabilizing events with disastrous consequences, especially for the thousands of low-wage service workers and their families. With federal contractors losing up to 15% of their annual income during the last government shutdown, we must take every measure to ensure that doesn’t happen again. I’m proud to stand with our service workers—from Capitol Hill to Logan Airport and all across America—by introducing this bill, which would help ensure that these families and individuals harmed by Republicans’ cruel games are made whole.”

The Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act would:

  • Provide contract workers, including low-wage service workers, with back pay and restored paid leave benefits, if used, after a government shutdown;
  • Cover costs associated with back pay for workers in an amount equal to their weekly compensation up to $1,442, which is 250% of the federal poverty level for a family of four; and
  • Require the Office of Federal Procurement Policy submit a report on federal contractors accessing back pay.

The legislation, led by Rep. Pressley in the House, is cosponsored by Representatives John P. Sarbanes (MD-03), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Nydia M. Velazquez (NY-07), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Troy A. Carter, Sr. (LA-02), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Jonathan Jackson (IL-01), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), André Carson (IN-07), David Trone (MD-06), Cori Bush (MO-01), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Raul Ruiz (CA-25), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Don Beyer (VA-08), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), and Susie Lee (NV-03).

A copy of the bill text can be found here.