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Lawmakers Urge Change from within to Improve Low-Wage Workers' Pay

Federal News Radio

Members of Congress are calling on the government to get out in front of the growing income gap by addressing the low wages paid within its own buildings.

In a July 2 letter to President Barack Obama, 17 House Democrats said the government needs to take action toward the fair treatment and decent pay of its unskilled service-contract employees, particularly those working at iconic sites such as Union Station, the Smithsonian and the National Zoo.

"The nation's capital, home of the nation's monumental tourist sites and buildings, is the visible epicenter of federal collusion with vendors and contractors that pay low wages to their employees at federal sites," the letter said.

The letter said the government is responsible when contractors pay employees working at federal sites below a "living wage."

The lawmakers said federally contracted service workers reported to members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that they are paid so little, they struggle to meet basic needs. Workers sometimes are required to work unpaid and unreported overtime, the letter said. [...]

According to a report by Demos, a Washington think tank, 2 million federally contracted workers make less than $24,000 a year. The think tank says the government contracts with more low-wage workers than any other private-sector company.

The letter cited Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 to bar job discrimination by federal contractors as an example of the using federal contracting to promote general welfare.