Newsflash:
Lesli Messinger Economic and Social Justice Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”
Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:26

Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”

Written by  Josh Eidelson | Salon

One day after a top Obama administration official deflected a congressman’s call for executive action to raise labor standards for contractors, activists Wednesday announced the filing of a new Department of Labor complaint over alleged wage theft in a government building. The complaint alleges that dozens of workers in D.C.’s government-owned Union Station are owed over $3 million in back pay and damages for rampant failure to pay minimum wage or overtime.

“If a federal contractor thinks that they can steal the pay of workers, it’s very hard to believe that they would voluntarily pay those workers more money,” Rep. Keith Ellison told reporters on a call with Change to Win. “Of course they’re not going to do that.” Ellison and fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva are among 50 members of Congress who’ve urged Obama to wield executive authority to enact more pro-labor standards for federal contracting. Grijalva told Salon last month that he and his colleagues’ months-old urgings had received “no response.”

On Tuesday, Ellison took a different tack: showing up to an Economic Policy Institute panel on which Council of Economic Advisors chair Jason Furman was discussing the federal minimum wage, and asking a question from the audience. After Ellison asked about the prospects for the administration to make a move “outside of legislative action” to help low-wage federal contract workers, Furman answered, “There’s no doubt that the biggest thing we could do is something legislative.” After noting the millions who would be affected by a federal minimum wage increase, Furman said, “I think the biggest question that we should all be asking ourselves is what’s the best way to advance and get to that goal, because that’s what we want to get to ultimately, is everyone, you know, having … that poverty floor, with then the other things on top of that … How can we make sure that there’s no one in this country that’s paid less than $10.10 an hour?”

“Really, it was the most remarkable dodge I’ve ever seen,” Rep. Ellison told Salon Wednesday. Still, he said, “we hope that they’re going to do” an executive order. “We believe it is the right thing to do. It would be federal government leading by example, and that’s all I can say.” Ellison and Grijalva told Salon they still had not received any official response from the White House.

Grijalva told reporters on Wednesday’s call that executive action on contracted workers’ conditions was “a barometer about what we’re going to do about income inequality.” He was joined by Union Station worker Tibebe Ayele, who charged, “My employer paid me $5.86 while I work 60 hours a week,” and said, “Nobody should be treated like I was, especially in a federal building.”

The Department of Labor confirmed receiving the new complaint, which follows a previous complaint regarding alleged wage theft in the also government-owned Ronald Reagan building. Salon received no immediate response to early morning inquiries directed to the Department of Transportation (which owns the building), Ashkenazy Acquisition (to which DOT leases commercial areas), Jones Lang LaSalle (the real estate company that contracts with individual food court vendors), the Office of Management and Budget (which has oversight over federal contracting) and the White House.

As I’ve reported, cleaning and concessions workers in federal buildings have mounted a series of one-day strikes over the past eight months, aiming to force action by Obama. Their effort, Good Jobs Nation, is backed by the Service Employees International Union and its labor federation, Change to Win. The Good Jobs Nation campaign’s most concrete success to date has come directly from one of the contractors, not from the government: According to organizers, about 220 Smithsonian museum workers won union organizing rights and recognition from the food service giant Compass Group, becoming members of the union UNITE HERE (my former employer).

According to a May report from the progressive think tank Demos, around 2 million workers with taxpayer-backed jobs make no more than $12 per hour. According to a December report from Democrats on the Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions committee, $81 billion in federal contracts for the previous year went to 49 companies that had drawn nearly 1,800 enforcement actions by the Department of Labor over six years.

“This wage theft issue really dramatizes how serious this whole fight is …” said Ellison. “We will not tolerate it … I’m going to shout it from the rooftops: The fact is, the president can raise the pay of 2 million people right now.”

Link to original article from Salon

Read 5798 times Last modified on Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:36

Latest News from the Messinger Campaign

  • Savannah's Lesli Messinger gives Democrats best chance to beat Jack Kingston
    Savannah's Lesli Messinger gives Democrats best chance to beat Jack Kingston

    On Saturday, October 20, First Congressional District candidate Lesli Messinger visited Pin Point, Georgia and talked with locals about her candidacy and to listen to what issues those citizens believe are important.

    Messinger has traveled through her congressional district for months since her qualifying back in late May and has touted a strong progressive message and has been able to build grassroots coalitions.

    Written on Sunday, 21 October 2012 16:18 Read more...
  • Messinger Wins Race to Face Kingston
    Messinger Wins Race to Face Kingston

    Progressive Democrats say Congrats to U.S. Congressional GA District 1 Primary Winner Lesli Messinger. Lesli Messinger has claimed the Democratic nomination for Georgia’s 1st Congressional District Tuesday beating Nathan Russo in the Democratic Primary.  Unofficial results showed Messinger with 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Russo with 97 percent of the precincts reporting.

    Written on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 15:55 Read more...
  • Georgia’s Only Democratic Woman Candidate for Congress
    Georgia’s Only Democratic Woman Candidate for Congress

    Democrat Lesli Messinger seeks to end 20 years of Republican domination in coastal Georgia.  It’s a particularly difficult challenge to unseat an incumbent, and harder still for a Democrat in a Congressional District that’s been Republican-ruled for 20 years.

    Written on Friday, 27 July 2012 02:52 Read more...
  • Mickey Stephens backs Lesli Messinger for Congress
    Mickey Stephens backs Lesli Messinger for Congress

    State Rep. Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah, has endorsed Lesli Messinger for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District.

    Messinger, a Savannah businesswoman, is running against Nathan Russo, a retired St. Simons businessman, in Tuesday’s primary.

    The winner will face Republican incumbent Jack Kingston, who is seeking a 10th term.  Last year’s boundary changes left the district with a GOP tilt, but less pronounced than in the past.

    The endorsement apparently is intended to buttress Messinger’s claim to be a stauncher Democrat than Russo and a loyal supporter of  President Barack Obama.

    Russo has argued that, to beat Kingston in the district, a Democrat must make a strong appeal to many independents and at least some Republicans.

    Stephens prefaces his statement by saying he’s “a lifelong member of the Democratic Party for over 30 years.”  

    “Not only does Mrs. Messinger have fresh new ideas that I feel truly represent the people of our district, and the state of Georgia,” he said. “She is a proud supporter of President Obama’s policies. I know Messinger will stand with President Obama in Congress, on a true Democratic front with other members of Congress.”

    Written on Thursday, 26 July 2012 00:00
  • U.S. House District 1: Lesli Messinger says she speaks for middle class
    U.S. House District 1: Lesli Messinger says she speaks for middle class

    Lesli Messinger moved to Skidaway Island four years ago, she says, to escape the “dark and dreary” environs of New Jersey. But Messinger says she found darkness and dreariness near the tranquil community where she and her husband, Nathan, relocated. She says she met women who couldn’t afford cookies for their grandchildren and people whose jobless benefits were expiring.

    Written on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 00:00 Read more...

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Lesli Messinger

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of