January 10, 2019

Senators Shaheen, Hassan Press Trump Administration to Ensure Federal Contractor Employees Receive Pay

WASHINGTON – Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan today joined Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and 30 additional colleagues in writing to the Office of Management and Budget, urging the Trump Administration to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost during the shutdown. Under their existing authority, federal contracting officers should use provisions that allow them to modify the terms of the contract to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.

The Senators write, “Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.”

They continue, “After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees.”

The Senators close the letter, writing, “We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.”

The text of the letter is available below and here.

Senators Hassan and Shaheen joined their colleagues in December in voting for a bill that would have funded the government, and that President Trump threatened to veto only after it was passed. Since then, they have called on the Senate leader to bring a funding bill forward for a vote and supported legislation to protect Granite Staters and Americans from the impacts of the shutdown. The Senators helped introduce legislation that would ensure that any furloughed government employee from this shutdown or any future ones will be paid retroactively as soon as appropriations are restored. Senator Hassan also cosponsored a bill that would fund Coast Guard operations during lapses in appropriations – including pay for members of the Coast Guard (including reserve components), pay for Coast Guard retirees, pay for Coast Guard civilian employees, and pay for Coast Guard contractors, and joined in introducing the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, which would protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown.

Dear Mr. Vought:

We are writing to urge you to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost as a result of not being able to report to work during this government shutdown.

Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.

After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees. Government contracts typically have provisions to modify the terms of the contract. Federal contracting officers should use these provisions to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.

Providing back pay to these low- and middle-income contractor employees who are furloughed by their employers is the right thing to do, and it is in the federal government's best interest to provide funding to the extent necessary to ensure that contractors deliver back pay to their workers. Contractor employees cannot afford the chaos and uncertainty of government shutdowns, and some of these workers may seek other jobs if back pay is not provided to compensate for shutdown-related losses.

Most of all, this wasteful and destructive government shutdown must come to an end. We all support the legislation passed by the House of Representatives to reopen the government, which mirrors legislation that previously passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

###