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Federal Contract Workers Say $10.10 is Poverty Wage, Call on President Obama to Recognize Union

More than 200 worker leaders at 50 federal contractors demand president to end strikes, allow collective bargaining.

Washington, DC – Today, working mothers employed by food service and cleaning contractors at federal buildings declared that the President’s $10.10 Executive Order isn’t enough to support their families. The workers called on President Obama to use his executive powers to give them collective bargaining rights so they don’t have to keep striking to win living wages, health care benefits, paid time off and the other things they need to care for their kids.

“I’m grateful to the President for raising my wage to ten dollars an hour, but it’s not enough to care for my son,” says Rodelma Acosta, a McDonald’s worker at the Pentagon. “As a single mom, I still have to rely on food stamps and Medicaid because there’s nothing left after paying the rent. Most of my coworkers are like me – we’re single moms and barely making it. We need more than the minimum wage, we need a union to win the living wages and benefits necessary to take care of our families and give our kids a chance to succeed in the world.”

At the State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Executive Order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour in response to repeated strikes by low-wage workers at the Pentagon, the Smithsonian museums, Union Station and the Ronald Reagan Building over the past year. Today, the workers – who are part of the Good Jobs Nation campaign – announced that they sent a letter to the President and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez signed by 200 leaders working at 50 federal contractors calling on the Administration to go further and require their employers to sit down with them and collectively bargain over wages and working conditions so that they don’t need to continue taking strike action to be heard.

The demand by federal contract workers comes as public agencies like the Los Angeles Airport Authority and private employers like Target have instituted policies to make sure their contractors guarantee that worker grievances are resolved through negotiation without resort to strikes, demonstrations or boycotts. Decades earlier, President Franklin Roosevelt used his executive powers to prevent strikes on federal contracts by extending collective bargaining rights to over 10 million workers.

“Our President has taken a step towards greater economic justice – but $10.10 is the minimum he could do to help low-wage federal contractors across the nation employed by private businesses that serve the American public,” says Reverend Michael Livingston, past President of the National Council of Churches and Policy Director for Interfaith Worker Justice. “If the President really believes that income inequality is the defining issue of our time, he should follow in FDR’s footsteps and use his executive powers to give workers a voice on the job so that they don’t have to resort to strikes to win a better life.”

“I strongly support a key element of President Obama’s agenda, which is to raise the minimum wage. Ultimately, the minimum wage should be a living wage – providing low-wage workers with what they need to rise out of poverty and care for their families. That is justice. I hope the president will now go further and allow these federal contract workers the freedom to form a union and bargain collectively with their employers,” said Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community.

Good Jobs Nation is an organization of low-wage workers employed by government contractors who are joining together to urge President Obama to use Executive Orders to give them a living wage and a voice on the job. The Good Jobs Nation campaign is supported by a coalition of national faith and advocacy organizations, including the NAACP, Interfaith Worker Justice, Change to Win and OUR DC.

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