May 22, 2013
By Neal Tepel
Washington DC – Hundreds of low-wage workers employed under federal contracts, concessions, and leases went on strike today in several federally owned buildings asking their employers and President Obama to take action and improve their wages and working conditions.
These low-wage workers are part of a hidden army of nearly two million low-wage workers across the country employed by private businesses on behalf of the U.S. government to serve the American public—working in the food courts at government buildings like Union Station and the Ronald Reagan Building, greeting visitors and selling memorabilia at the Smithsonian Museums, driving trucks hauling federally-owned loads and making military uniforms for our troops.
Today’s strikes come on the heels of combined fast-food and retail worker strikes in Milwaukee and the largest-ever fast food strikes in Detroit, as well as recent strikes in New York City, St. Louis and Chicago and the nationwide walkout by Walmart associates on Black Friday.
Low-wage jobs have accounted for the bulk of new jobs added in the recovery, but a recent Demos report found that the federal government is the largest low-wage job creator – with nearly 2 million low-wage workers employed under government contracts, loans and leases, including nearly 100,000 working under federal contracts in the DC area alone. A growing coalition of community organizations, clergy, and labor groups, including Empower DC, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Change to Win, OUR DC, and Jobs with Justice, have voiced their support for the workers’ efforts.