Legislation Introduced to Provide Back Pay to Low-Wage Contract Workers

Legislation has been introduced to guarantee back pay to low-wage federal contract workers impacted by the shutdown.

When it comes to pay and the ongoing partial government shutdown, much of the focus has been on pay for federal employees.

Legislation has been quickly moving forward to guarantee back pay to federal employees for the shutdown. As of the time of this writing, that bill has passed Congress and is awaiting President Trump’s signature who previously indicated he would sign it.

Some FedSmith readers have asked me about federal contractors and whether or not they would get paid. The likely answer is that it is up to each individual company as to when or how they pay their employees since they are private companies.

However, there is a bill (H.R. 339) that was recently introduced to guarantee back pay to “low-wage federal contract workers” that was introduced in the House by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced that he will introduce companion legislation in the Senate as well.

The workers in question are “federally contracted retail, food, custodial and security service workers,” according to a press release from Norton’s office about the bill which includes janitorial, food and security services employees.

Norton said in a statement about the legislation:

Unlike federal employees, who have always been made whole after a shutdown, many low-wage workers, who are the focus of our bill, earn little more than the minimum wage and receive few, if any, benefits. And, unlike many other contractors, those who employ low-wage service workers have little latitude to help make up for lost wages. We must act to ensure that low-wage, federally contracted service workers are not put at a unique disadvantage by the Trump shutdown.

Similar legislation was introduced in the previous Congress that would have prohibited operating the Congressional gym and dining room during the shutdown in an effort to protect the contractor employees working there. This bill would have guaranteed back pay to these employees as well, but it died in the previous Congress.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.