Center for American Progress Action

RELEASE: Biden Should Use His Executive Authority To Raise Standards for Service-Sector Contract Workers
Press Statement

RELEASE: Biden Should Use His Executive Authority To Raise Standards for Service-Sector Contract Workers

Washington, D.C. — On the campaign trail, President Joseph Biden promised to create good domestic jobs; close racial wealth and wage gaps; and ensure working Americans are able to exercise their rights and build power on the job. While he has already taken several actions to fulfill these pledges, he can do even more to raise wages and improve job quality for American workers.

A new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund proposes a road map for President Biden to continue making good on his promises, by using his executive and regulatory authority to raise standards for service-sector federal contract workers. Service contract workers, such as cafeteria staff and cleaners in federal buildings, veterans’ home health aides, and the call center workers who answer Americans’ COVID-19 questions, are frequently Black women and Latinas, who have faced long-standing discrimination in the labor market. They are among the lowest-paid federal contractors and often lack access to decent benefits, including emergency paid leave. Improving standards for service-sector federal contractors would begin to address many of the longtime disparities within the federal workforce.

In “Service Contract Workers Deserve Good Jobs,” CAP Action’s Karla Walter and the National Employment Law Project’s Anastasia Christman explain that President Biden can improve standards for service-sector contract workers by using his executive authority to:

  • Ensure that service contract workers earn decent wages of at least $15 and receive needed benefits by raising the contractor minimum wage, modernizing prevailing wage regulations, and providing emergency paid leave.
  • Require equal pay and workplace rights for workers with disabilities and better protect all contract workers from discrimination, regardless of race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or status as a protected veteran.
  • Strengthen the power of government and workers to enforce workplace rights. Currently, many corporations that receive federal contracts routinely violate labor laws. The government should fund and equip the U.S. Department of Labor to enforce the law. Additionally, the administration should close loopholes that undermine workers’ right to organize and empower workers to take action against employers who violate their rights.

“All federal contract workers deserve good jobs. A focus on service workers is essential to ensuring that the contract workers who are among the worst paid and continue to bear the brunt of long-standing racial and gender disparities aren’t left behind,” said Walter, senior director of CAP Action’s American Worker Project. “By raising job standards and empowering these workers to come together to stand up for their rights, President Biden can improve the lives of millions of Americans across the country.”

“Millions of contracted workers perform critical services for this country but aren’t sure they can pay their rent and buy food from month to month,” said Christman, Worker Power Program director at the National Employment Law Project. “A generation ago, lawmakers made promises to these workers that federally contracted jobs would be good jobs, but too many workers are still waiting. President Biden has the opportunity now to make good on that promise.”

“As it works now, the federal contract system has driven down worker pay, especially in low-income communities, and allowed greedy contractors to use anti-union tactics to try to stand in the way of worker organizing,” said Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton. “When President Donald Trump was in charge, it was nearly impossible to address these structural problems. But now, with Joe Biden in the White House, nothing is standing in the way of change. Workers who have already suffered for too long are counting on President Biden to come through for them as soon as possible.”

“President Biden has already begun responding to the demands of working people to be respected, protected, and paid, by taking steps to raise the minimum wage for federally contracted workers to $15,” said Service Employees International Union International President Mary Kay Henry. “By signing an executive order to fulfill this commitment and taking additional steps to ensure that all service contract jobs are good jobs, President Biden could raise standards for the courageous Black and brown workers, especially women, who keep our government running behind the scenes.”

Read the report: “Service Contract Workers Deserve Good Jobs” by Karla Walter and Anastasia Christman

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at [email protected].