Back pay for federal contractors set to advance


June 14, 2019

Last January, in the midst of the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history, Voices for Human Needs and a number of other media outlets detailed the plight of federal contractors.

Unlike government employees, who usually receive their pay retroactively in the event of a shutdown, federal contractors are left out in the cold, without compensation. These contractors include low-income workers such as janitors, security guards and cooks.

At the time, workers advocates called on Congress to include federal contractors when it comes to back pay – but that had never happened before, and they weren’t included when Congress approved retroactive pay for federal workers after the shutdown at the beginning of this year.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

But earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee announced that an upcoming spending package will include back pay for an estimated 580,000 federal contractors, according to a report published Wednesday in the Washington Post.

According to the Post, union leaders believe many of the affected federal contractors earn between $460 and $650 weekly, making them the among the lowest-paid government workers.

“The federal government relies on these hard-working men and women – our security professionals, our food service workers, our custodial workers – to keep our government buildings running,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), who helped lead the push for back pay along with Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). “By including back pay in the upcoming spending package, we are one step closer to finally giving our federal contactor employees what they are owed.”

Although back pay for federal contractors is expected to clear the House, perhaps this month, its fate in the Senate is far from certain. A group of Senate Democrats, joined by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), have been pushing for the measure. But other Republican senators are balking.