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WashingtonToday, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the inclusion of back pay for federal contract workers impacted by the government shutdown within the upcoming disaster relief package. While federal workers harmed by the government shutdown have since been compensated for their lost wages, federal contract employees –  including janitorial, food, and security services workers – who were furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours have not. In their letter, the senators urge the Appropriations Committee to include provisions to fix this wrong in upcoming appropriations legislation.

The senators write, “Contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause.”

They continue, “Contractor employees perform jobs that are critical to the operations of our government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. These are often low-wage jobs that require workers to live paycheck to paycheck. As a result, the shutdown has left contractors struggling with unpaid rent and other mounting bills that many of these workers still cannot afford without back pay.”

The senators close the letter stating, “There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress that would provide back pay to compensate contractor employees for their lost wages. As supporters of this effort, we urge you to include back pay for contractor employees in a supplemental appropriations bill for FY2019 or as part of the regular appropriations process for FY2020.”

In addition to Feinstein and Van Hollen, the letter was signed by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark Warner (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

Text of the letter is available below. 

Dear Chairman Shelby and Vice Chairman Leahy:

As discussions proceed for upcoming appropriations bills, we urge you to include a provision to provide back pay to compensate federal contractor employees for the wages they lost as a result of not being able to report to work during the recent government shutdown.

Contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause. While federal employees received back pay at the end of the shutdown, federal contractors did not. Contractor employees perform jobs that are critical to the operations of our government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. These are often low-wage jobs that require workers to live paycheck to paycheck. As a result, the shutdown has left contractors struggling with unpaid rent and other mounting bills that many of these workers still cannot afford without back pay.

There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress that would provide back pay to compensate contractor employees for their lost wages. As supporters of this effort, we urge you to include back pay for contractor employees in a supplemental appropriations bill for FY2019 or as part of the regular appropriations process for FY2020.

Sincerely,

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