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Smithsonian Workers Stage Walkout, Demanding a Living Wage

In These Times

Low-wage workers at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. went on strike today. The striking workers are employed through private federal contractors—mostly vendors at federal buildings like the Smithsonian Museums, the Ronald Reagan Building and the International Trade Center. Although their labor keeps the federal government running, they are making poverty wages. The workers are demanding President Obama issue an executive order mandating that private federal contractors pay employees a living wage.

Today’s walkout was organized by Good Jobs Nation, a recently launched coalition funded by other labor unions—including the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Farm Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers—that has held three such demonstrations in Washington since May. Demonstrators gathered in front of the Air and Space Museum this morning and marched to the Smithsonian Castle. Good Jobs Nation has already received support from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and members of the D.C. Council. [...]

study published two months ago by the liberal think tank Demos found that “nearly two million private sector employees working on behalf of America earn wages too low to support a family, making $12 or less per hour. This is more than the number of low-wage workers at Wal-Mart and McDonalds combined.”