Warner, Kaine, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Provide Back Pay for Federal Contractors Ahead of Possible Shutdown
Bill would ensure federal contract service workers will be compensated when the government reopens
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, with one day left to pass a government funding bill before a potential shutdown, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined their colleagues to introduce legislation that would secure back pay for the thousands of federal contract workers who face furlough or reduced work hours during a potential shutdown. Unlike federal government employees, federal contract employees—many of whom serve in modestly paid jobs like custodians and cafeteria workers—have no assurances that they will receive back pay to make up for the wages they miss during a shutdown. In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the legislation is also sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
“It’s a shame that a few members in the House of Representatives are refusing to do their jobs, and it’s disgraceful that this stands to impact the many federal contractors that keep our government facilities running,” said Sen. Warner. “Without the guarantee of a paycheck, the thousands of dedicated federal contractors who show up every day may be forced to pick between keeping a roof over their heads or putting food on the table. I am glad to introduce this legislation to ensure that when Congress struggles to act, our federal workers contractors do not suffer long-term consequences.”
“Our federal contractors make critical contributions to the federal government’s delivery of services that Virginians, Americans across the country, and our national security depend on,” said Sen. Kaine. “In 2019, I was glad to successfully negotiate the passage of legislation to secure back pay for federal workers during shutdowns, and will keep working until Congress
The Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act seeks to ensure federal contract workers, including low-wage food service, janitorial and security service workers, are fairly compensated for the wages and benefits lost due to a lapse in appropriations. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Provide contract workers, including low-wage service workers, with back pay and restored paid leave benefits, if used, after a government shutdown;
- Cover costs associated with back pay for workers in an amount equal to their weekly compensation up to $1,442, which is 250% of the federal poverty level for a family of four; and
- Require the Office of Federal Procurement Policy submit a report on federal contractors accessing back pay.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been outspoken about the devastating impacts of a government shutdown. In 2019, during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Sens. Warner and Kaine took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees.
A copy of the bill text can be found here.
"IAM members are grateful for the unwavering dedication of Reps. Pressley, Holmes Norton and Norcross in the House, and Sen. Tina Smith in the Senate, for championing the Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Their leadership shines a beacon of hope for tens of thousands of IAM federal contract members, and countless more federal contract workers across the country, who tirelessly serve our nation alongside federal employees. This vital legislation, ensuring back pay compensation after government shutdowns, acknowledges the profound impact these men and women make to allow our nation to function. Beyond mere statistics, this legislation safeguards the livelihoods of hardworking families, preventing the painful ripple effects of missed payments and financial hardships. Let’s all stand united in support of our federal contract workers and their families."
“A government shutdown hurts every family regardless of race, occupation and zip code. However, it is beyond time for every member of Congress to acknowledge how devastating a government shutdown is for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who work hard to keep our government operating in both good and bad times as federally contracted workers. Security officers, janitors and other workers employed by federal contractors contribute so much to our country by administering vital programs, taking care of our nation’s parks, and keeping our office buildings safe. Yet, they risk permanently losing the income they need to pay rent, buy groceries or keep the lights on," said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. "That’s why passing the Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act of 2023 is so critical when our nation is on the verge of a government shutdown. Providing federally contracted workers with back pay would help ensure they have an opportunity for true recovery.”
“Contracted janitors and security officers, unlike direct federal employees, have never been able to count on back pay following a government shutdown,” said Manny Pastreich, President of 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “They live paycheck-to-paycheck and cannot afford to pay the price of a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause. Denying them pay during a shutdown would be catastrophic, even life-threatening for the sole providers who struggle to feed and pay rent for parents, children and dependents, especially those relying on them to pay for treating debilitating medical conditions. Congress must practice basic governance by passing Representative Pressley’s legislation to ensure leaders meet their moral and financial obligation to these hard-working men and women. Before reckless Republicans drive our nation off a cliff to realize their fever dreams, we must not let one more day go by without righting this wrong. Most Americans could not survive without income – why are contracted workers expected to?”