February 04, 2019

Van Hollen Announces State of the Union Guest: Federal Contract Worker Lila Johnson

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has announced that federal contract worker and Hagerstown, Md. resident Lila Johnson will join him for President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. Ms. Johnson has worked as a general cleaning services contractor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for over 20 years. She is the primary breadwinner for her family and is helping to raise her two grandchildren. During the shutdown, she was told by her supervisor to use her sick leave and vacation days to make up for her lost pay. Due to her status as a contract employee, Ms. Johnson currently will not receive any compensation for the hours she lost during the shutdown. Senator Van Hollen and Senator Smith have introduced legislation – which now has bipartisan support – to ensure low- to mid-wage federal contract employees are held harmless from the shutdown. Senator Van Hollen and Ms. Johnson originally met at a roundtable the Senator hosted to hear the impacts of the shutdown on federal service contractors.

“Low- and middle-wage federal contract workers who were locked out of their jobs during the shutdown have been stuck with mounting bills and no back pay. I am grateful to Lila Johnson for sharing her account of the hardship she has endured through no fault of her own. We must act to right these wrongs. Like federal workers, contract employees deserve to be made whole, and I’m fighting to get this bill across the finish line,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“I appreciate the Senator inviting me to join him for the State of the Union to highlight the need for federal service contractors to be treated fairly. I know he is fighting for us, and I’m grateful for his efforts,” said Lila Johnson.

Last month, Senators Van Hollen and Tina Smith introduced the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act, which now has more than 39 cosponsors in the Senate and over 50 in the House of Representatives. The bill aims to help federal contractor employees –  including janitorial, food, and security services workers – who were furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown. Senator Van Hollen also led a letter with 33 Democratic Senators to the Office of Management and Budget to urge them to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost during the shutdown. Under their existing authority, federal contracting officers could use provisions that allow them to modify the terms of the contract to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.