One day after a top Obama administration official deflected a congressman’s call for executive action to raise labor standards for contractors, activists Wednesday announced the filing of a new Department of Labor complaint over alleged wage theft in a government building. The complaint alleges that dozens of workers in D.C.’s government-owned Union Station are owed over $3 million in back pay and damages for rampant failure to pay minimum wage or overtime.
“If a federal contractor thinks that they can steal the pay of workers, it’s very hard to believe that they would voluntarily pay those workers more money,” Rep. Keith Ellison told reporters on a call with Change to Win. “Of course they’re not going to do that.” Ellison and fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva are among 50 members of Congress who’ve urged Obama to wield executive authority to enact more pro-labor standards for federal contracting. Grijalva told Salon last month that he and his colleagues’ months-old urgings had received “no response.” [...]
According to a May report from the progressive think tank Demos, around 2 million workers with taxpayer-backed jobs make no more than $12 per hour. According to a December report from Democrats on the Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions committee, $81 billion in federal contracts for the previous year went to 49 companies that had drawn nearly 1,800 enforcement actions by the Department of Labor over six years.
“This wage theft issue really dramatizes how serious this whole fight is …” said Ellison. “We will not tolerate it … I’m going to shout it from the rooftops: The fact is, the president can raise the pay of 2 million people right now.”