Obama Could Give These Striking Low-Wage Workers The Raise They Need

Filed under: Labor,News,Politics,Union Organizing |

By LAURA CLAWSON, for Daily Kos Labor The latest round of low-wage workers to stage a one-day strike don’t work for Walmart or McDonald’s.

Union Station rally of low-wage workers

Photo: @GoodJobsNation

They work for the federal government, kind of—for federal contractors in landmark Washington, DC, buildings like Union Station and the Smithsonian museums.

A recent report from the think tank Demos found that there are more than 2 million people working for federal contractors at poverty-level wages. Today’s strikers are asking President Obama to lift their wages, something he could do with an executive order.

Their stories are like those of other low-wage workers, Josh Eidelson demonstrates:

“The truth is, I’m ready. I’m not scared,” janitor Vilma Martinez told The Nation in Spanish last night. “Fear fades away, especially in the face of the unfair treatment we get here.”

Martinez, who’s worked at Union Station for the past 19 years, said that the federal contractor ICC Cleaning pays her $8.75 an hour. She said she’s supposed to get regular check-ups for a serious heart condition, but only sees a doctor when she goes back to El Salvador, because she’s uninsured.

Martinez told The Nation that if she could talk to the president, “I would ask him to help us get a decent salary, and respect on the job, and health insurance, so we don’t have to go back to our countries to get treated.”

“With the help of god, and the help of my co-workers,” said Martinez, “I’m hopeful that at the end of the day we’ll be triumphant.”

What’s different is who’s paying them.

Our government shouldn’t pay poverty wages. Sign our petition telling President Obama to sign the executive order that would give 2 million federal workers a living wage.

10:06 AM PT: According to organizers, the strike has shut down about half the food court at the Ronald Reagan building and the McDonald’s at the Air and Space Museum.


Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue May 21, 2013 at 07:00 AM PDT.

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