'$10.10 Is Not Enough,' Low-Wage Federal Contract Workers Tell Obama

Charles S. Clark/GovExec.com

Some 100 pro-union protestors, some dressed as World War II worker icon Rosie the Riveter, chanted in front of Washington’s Union Station Tuesday morning demanding that President Obama sign a new executive order raising  the hourly pay of low-wage government contract workers and permitting collective bargaining.

“$10.10 is not enough… Stand up, fight back,” shouted picket-sign-toting activists from Good Jobs Nation, a coalition of faith groups and low-wage workers that was joined by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The workers, employed at Union Station, the Smithsonian, the Ronald Reagan Building, the Pentagon and the National Zoo, have staged nine strikes in recent years. They say the executive order President Obama signed in February, fulfilling a State of the Union promise to raise contractor minimum wages to $10.10 next year, “is not enough.”

Obama has cited as a model the Costco chain, which “allows workers to bargain without interference, doesn’t steal from them and doesn’t overpay CEOs," the Rev.  Michael Livingston, former National Council of Churches president, told the crowd. “If Costco can do it,” Livingston asked, “why can’t the federal government?”

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, chanted in Spanish to say, “Obama, you’re in the fight,” adding, “I don’t believe any federal contractor who doesn’t pay a living wage deserves a federal contract.”

In urging Obama to sign the group’s proposed Good Jobs executive order, Ellison was joined by Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas; Del.  Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.; and Sister Simone Campbell, organizer of the Nuns on the Bus campaign from the 2012 presidential election.

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