Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., is introducing an appropriations bill amendment to grant contractors shutdown back pay.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., is introducing an appropriations bill amendment to grant contractors shutdown back pay. Susan Walsh/AP

Democratic Senators Renew Push for Contractors to Receive Shutdown Back Pay

The House previously approved a similar measure, but the White House opposed it.

On Tuesday, a group of Democratic senators advocated to secure back pay for federal contractors who went without pay during the 35-day partial government shutdown in late 2018 and early this year.

Unlike the 350,000 federal employees furloughed during the lapse in appropriations, federal contractors were not compensated for the longest shutdown in history that lasted from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019. Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; and Tim Kaine, D-Va. spoke on the Senate floor on Tuesday to push for a Senate appropriations amendment to give hundreds of thousands of contractors back pay. The House already approved this measure in its version of the appropriations package in June

“For one group of workers things are not back to normal,” Smith said. “These are the low wage workers employed by federal contractors serving in cafeterias, providing building security and keeping federal buildings clean...Unfortunately [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s substitute amendment strips out this critical provision,” so “what I’m proposing is that we come together in a bipartisan way and that we add back the back pay language.”

Smith, along with the other senators who spoke out Tuesday, introduced the “Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act” (S. 162) in January to secure contractors’ back pay. Despite some bipartisan support, there hasn’t been any action on it.

Van Hollen said that most of the federal contractors who would receive back pay only make between $450 and $650 a week. “Without us intervening and doing right by these workers many of them will take years to recover from a financial hole that the shutdown put them in,”  Kaine said. 

Brown spoke about how contractors had to turn to family, run up credit card bills and go to payday lenders as a result of not getting paid during the shutdown. “One SEIU local that represents janitors and security officers said those workers and their families ‘will continue to relive the trauma on a daily basis until they’re compensated for 35 days.’ Thirty-five days of income they went without, already living on the edge,” he said. 

In June, the White House opposed the provision in the House’s bill that would provide contractors with back pay. “While contractors play an important role in helping government agencies meet their missions, this legislation ignores important principles of federal contracting, and would lead to increased cost and a significant increase in the risk of fraud, waste and improper payment,” said a statement from the Office of Management and Budget. “The administration anticipates significant, disruptive, and costly challenges in trying to force-fit the requirements of contractor back-pay legislation into an acquisition system that is not designed or equipped to manage contractor employees.” The Hill reported in February that McConnell was directing questions on back pay to OMB.

Getting the back pay “would mean a lot because that would really help me catch up in my bills and everything else,” said Lila Johnson, a contracted janitor for the Agriculture Department. 

De’von Russell, a contracted security officer at the Smithsonian who is employed by Allied Universal, echoed her sentiment. The shutdown “definitely put me in a hole. All the way up until now I’m living paycheck to paycheck,he told Government Executive. “You kind of start losing hope” as time goes on without back pay, but “it would be a blessing” for it to happen.

As the country grapples with the lasting effects of the previous shutdown, there could be another one if the Congress fails to reconcile its differences on appropriations and the president doesn’t sign a spending bill by Nov. 21. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.