January 10, 2019

Warner & Kaine Press Trump Administration to Work to Pay Federal Contractors

Virginia is home to 170,000 federal employees and tens of thousands of federal contractors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 32 colleagues in writing to the Trump Administration urging them to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to pay low- and middle-income employees for the wages they have lost during the shutdown. The Senators point out that federal contracting officers typically have existing authority that allows them to modify the terms of contracts, and they are encouraging them to do so. 

The Senators write, “Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.”

They continue, “After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees.”

The Senators close the letter, writing, “We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.” 

In addition to Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Doug Jones (D-AL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), and Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT).

The text of the letter is available below and here.

Dear Mr. Vought:

We are writing to urge you to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost as a result of not being able to report to work during this government shutdown.

Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.

After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees. Government contracts typically have provisions to modify the terms of the contract. Federal contracting officers should use these provisions to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.

Providing back pay to these low- and middle-income contractor employees who are furloughed by their employers is the right thing to do, and it is in the federal government's best interest to provide funding to the extent necessary to ensure that contractors deliver back pay to their workers. Contractor employees cannot afford the chaos and uncertainty of government shutdowns, and some of these workers may seek other jobs if back pay is not provided to compensate for shutdown-related losses.

Most of all, this wasteful and destructive government shutdown must come to an end. We all support the legislation passed by the House of Representatives to reopen the government, which mirrors legislation that previously passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

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