Last week more than 200 low-wage federal contract employees in the Washington D.C. area went on strike and attended a rally at Union Station to demand that the president provide them with “good jobs” via executive order. The employees, who work mainly at the Ronald Reagan Building, the Pentagon, the Air and Space Museum, the National Zoo, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, say that they are “representative of almost 2 million low-wage private sector workers whose jobs are funded by the federal government and who do not make a living wage. The group chanted “$10.10 is not enough” and asked the president to require companies holding contracts with the federal government to improve working conditions and respect collective bargaining. Furthermore, they demanded that companies guilty of “wage theft” be banned from access to federal contracts. Wage theft is a term typically used to describe non-payment of overtime, not paying a worker his or her last paycheck after leaving a job, or not paying for all hours worked on a job.
The group waved signs with the president’s picture emblazoned with the word “Help” and posters reading, “Dear Mr. President, Support American Families.” The president signed an executive order requiring companies to pay contractors $10.10 an hour, at least, this past February. The group is represented by an organization called Good Jobs Nation, which has determined based on the fine print in the order that the new federally-required minimum wage will not be enough. Minimum wage in Washington D.C. is $9.50. Good Jobs Nation says that in order for its members to scrape by at their current jobs, they need to be paid at least as much per hour as entry-level Costco employees, who make $11.50 an hour.
Interestingly, while Good Jobs Nation is focused on Washington D.C. workers, the group’s strategy is actually designed to manipulate our somewhat self-obsessed president into doing what they want on a national level and building their union base in the process. Good Jobs Nation is a campaign supported by a larger labor coalition called Change to Win. Change to Win has noted that “the biggest surges in union growth happen after worker uprisings trigger presidential intervention.” Good Jobs Nation has already triggered one executive order and, at least in theory, a union sign-up surge. Now, they’re working on another one.
Do you think that the president should respond directly to strikes with executive orders?
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