January 17, 2019

Udall, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Make Sure Federal Contract Workers Hurt by Trump Shutdown Receive the Back Pay They Deserve

New bill would ensure struggling employees of federal contractors will be compensated after government reopens

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced legislation to secure back pay for low-wage federal government contractors who continue to go without pay during the ongoing government shutdown, which is now the longest shutdown in American history. The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act aims to help struggling employees of federal contractors impacted by the shutdown -- including janitorial, kitchen, and security services workers -- many of whom are paid hourly, have been furloughed, or forced to accept reduced work hours. Oftentimes, these contract workers do not receive back pay or recoup lost wages when the government reopens -- unless Congress steps in.

“Contract workers do tireless and indispensable work as janitors, food service workers, security guards, and more. But many of them live paycheck to paycheck. These are the people who can least afford to be punished by the Trump shutdown,” said Udall. “Yet they’re being stiffed out of their rightful pay by the president’s reckless behavior. Many are scrambling to make ends meet and being forced to choose between the essentials just to stay afloat. This legislation would make sure that these folks are fairly compensated after the shutdown ends. Contract workers play an essential role in keeping our government running -- it’s only fair that the government serves them as well as they have served the government.”

“In New Mexico, thousands of federal contractors have been left in limbo because of President Trump’s reckless shutdown. This includes many low-wage contractor employees that simply cannot afford to miss a paycheck,” said Heinrich. “This bill would ensure these federal contractors are paid back for the wages they lose during the shutdown. It’s time for President Trump and Senate Republicans to reopen the government and end the pain they are causing hardworking New Mexicans.”  

The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act would: 

— Ensure federal contractors get reimbursed for providing back pay for employees, up to 200% of the federal poverty level for a family of four or $965 per week

— 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)

Last week, Udall and Heinrich joined a group of 34 Democratic senators in writing 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. The senators also cosponsored and voted for legislation that was signed into law yesterday to ensure back pay for federal and other government workers. 

The bill is led in the Senate by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and in addition to Udall and Heinrich, is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Angus King (I-Maine).  

The full text of the bill is available HERE. A summary of the bill is available HERE.