Delano Wingfield makes $9 an hour working in the Union Station food court in Washington, D.C. And it's really hard to get by.
“Right now, it’s actually like really tight…” Wingfield told Salon's Josh Eidelson. “Most of my money is on bills and rent.”
Wingfield and other cleaning and concessions workers plan to walk off their jobs in federal buildings Wednesday, Eidelson reports, and march on the White House, demanding fair wages and better working conditions.
As I’ve reported, the same group—called Good Jobs Nation—has mounted three smaller, building-specific strikes since the citywide work stoppage in May. The campaign is backed by the Service Employees International Union and community allies. Its targets aren't the companies that directly employ the workers on paper, but rather the federal government, under whose concession and lease agreements and contracts they work. Their effort exemplifies twin trends in the modern, embattled labor movement. First, the rise of one-day, nonunion strikes by minorities of the workforce, designed to embarrass bosses and engage co-workers and the public. And second, new campaigns that sidestep workers’ legal employer—whether a fast-food franchisee, a warehouse company hired by Walmart or a federal contractor—and instead attempt to squeeze the “real boss”: the fast-food corporation, the retail giant or the president of the United States.
Good Jobs Nation hasn't endorsed specific language for President Barack Obama to use in an executive order to raise labor standards for these taxpayer-funded jobs, but there is a "high-road" policy that gives employers a better chance at securing a government contract if they offer higher standards. This policy was floated in 2010 and never came to pass.
Demos released a study on tax payers funding these low-wage jobs and came up with an idea most people would agree is fair:
The federal government spends an estimated $23.9 billion a year paying private contractors for the compensation of top executives. If taxpayer-funded payouts for these executives were capped at $230,700—the salary of the U.S. vice president—the pay of hundreds of thousands of low-wage federal contract workers could be raised by as much as $6.69 per hour or $13,902 per year for a full-time worker, without costing taxpayers an additional dime.