January 04, 2019

Van Hollen, Colleagues Plan to Introduce Legislation to Ensure Low-Wage Federal Contract Employees Receive Back Pay

Senators Want to Make Sure Contract Workers Hurt by Shutdown Receive Their Paychecks 

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), along with his colleagues Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), pledged to stand up for low-wage federal contract workers by announcing plans to introduce legislation to secure back pay for the contractor employees who have gone without pay during the government shutdown.

Each day, thousands of contractor employees provide critical services to support the federal government, often at low wages, and many have been furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown. Many of these workers are janitorial, food, and security services workers.

“Federal service contractors—kitchen workers, maintenance staff, janitors—are doing tireless work behind the scenes every day for the government, oftentimes for low wages that force them to live paycheck to paycheck. They have nothing to do with this Trump Shutdown, and we must ensure they are held harmless from this political dysfunction. Paying these men and women is the right thing to do—period,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“This is about fairness—American workers shouldn’t be forced to go without a paycheck simply because of President Trump’s government shutdown,” Sen. Smith said. “It’s especially unfair for the low-wage contractor employees who provide the critical work to keep federal buildings clean, operate cafeterias, and keep government property secure. In the past, these workers haven’t received back pay at the end of a government shutdown, and it’s time we right that wrong.”

“President Trump’s temper tantrum is hurting the people who make this country work. Many Americans earn their living as custodians keeping our public spaces clean, as security guards who keep us safe, and as food service workers serving the public. They provide government services, but too often they are contracted out. They are paid too little to begin with and when the government shuts down, they have no way of making up those lost hours or wages. These are the people President Trump is hurting, and we need to ensure they are given the back pay they rightly deserve,” said Brown.

“The ripple effect of this unnecessary government shutdown has already been felt by families of all stripes and walks of life across Virginia. Federal employees should be—and always have been—paid retroactively after a government shutdown. That isn’t the case for many low-wage federal contractors—like janitors, security guards, and cafeteria staff—many of whom are already living paycheck to paycheck,” said Sen. Warner. “Virginians and Americans across the country have entrusted Congress to work on their behalf, not abandon them in favor of political brinksmanship.”

"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,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to end the Trump shutdown now and prevent them from happening in the future."

“Virginia is being hit hard by President Trump’s shutdown because we have a high number of federal employees wondering if their paychecks will come, but we also have a lot of federal contractors. We often do bills to make sure that paychecks for federal employees are made whole after a shutdown, but it’s not the same for these hardworking federal contractors who just want to do their jobs. To make it worse, many of these federal contractors are living paycheck-to-paycheck, so this really hurts them. I’m glad we are trying to find a way to make sure some of these workers get paid. This shutdown was completely unnecessary and we need to protect people who have been hurt by President Trump’s actions,” said Sen. Kaine.