Washington, D.C. — Today, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring companies that win government contracts to keep qualified existing workers in their jobs. Workers across sectors are celebrating the move, and experts on the federally contracted workforce cite it as a critical next step toward a suite of reforms aimed at protecting workers employed on federal service contracts.
The federal government indirectly employs about 2 million workers through contractors under the Service Contract Act (SCA), often in low-wage industries such as waste management, call centers, and food services—industries characterized by workforces that are largely people of color, women, LGBTQ+ Americans, and/or disabled. These workers provide essential services to our government, but do not enjoy the benefits of being a government employee, and their contracts are plagued by instability and potential disruption. Contracts change hands as often as every three to four years, putting workers at constant risk of losing their jobs and public programs at risk of losing their accumulated skills. President Biden’s executive order requires contractors to reduce turnover by offering workers the opportunity to remain in their roles when taking over a contract from another business.
“It would be such a relief to know that my job is protected because it would mean my family is protected too. In Virginia, most janitors don’t make this much or have these benefits, which are so critical as a single mother with a child depending on me,” said Ana Ayala, a single mother living in Woodbridge, Virginia, and 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU) member janitor at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. 32BJ SEIU represents janitors and security officers employed by federal contractors under SCA contracts from Virginia to Massachusetts.
“I’ve worked for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services through multiple companies, and there are always questions about what will happen during those transitions. Workers like me are counting on President Biden to ensure that this executive order applies to federal call center contracts like ours as quickly as possible, so that we and our families can have peace of mind about the stability of our jobs going forward and can focus on providing great customer service to Americans with questions about their health care,” said Annie Pelfrey, a tier-2 customer service representative at Maximus Federal Services’ call center in Winchester, Kentucky.
“I became an engineering technician in 1997 after 11 years of military service. I work with simulators, using skills I learned in my time in the U.S. Marine Corps. Most of these skills are not taught in classrooms; they’re learned in the field. Most of my colleagues are also veterans, and these companies can’t fulfill their end of the contract without us. This is the fifth company I’ve been involved with. Because of experienced workers like me, when the contract changes hands, the work can continue seamlessly, without any interruptions. I’m proud to continue providing an essential service to the military and government, and this executive order recognizes the value of the experience and knowledge my colleagues and I bring to the table,” said Calvin Brinkley, an engineering technician at PAE in Virginia Beach and vice president of IUE-CWA Local 83225. Communications Workers of America and its industrial division IUE-CWA represent SCA-covered contract workers who service military fighter jets and other aircraft, support satellite operations, provide ID badge services, and are employed in a range of other service occupations for federal contractors.
“When my government contractor company lost its contract, I lost the best job I ever had for no justified reason. The new company took over the contract and refused to offer positions to all my co-workers and me. The sudden loss of a job has drastically changed my life and has caused financial hardships for my family. We are struggling with the costs of food, transportation, and medical and existing bills. I was devoted to my government contractor job, as it supported the military at Fort Steward Military base in Hinesville, Georgia. It was my duty and privilege to help the troops and their families, but the new company didn’t show us the same respect and dignity. I hope no other government contract workers have to go through what I did,” said Krista A. Ramlo, bus driver and member of Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta. The Teamsters represent thousands of workers employed by dozens of government contractors at military bases and other federal facilities across the country.
“All federal contract workers deserve good, stable jobs with fair pay and benefits and a voice on the job,” said Karla Walter, senior director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “By preventing low-road corporations from winning bids on the basis of restaffing with cheaper, less experienced workers, President Biden’s executive order will improve financial stability for contract workers and their families; boost fair competition among companies that invest in their workers; and safeguard the wise use of public resources. This order, along with his other actions to raise pay and rebuild anti-discrimination protections for the contracted workforce, demonstrates that the president is committed to improving the lives of federal workers. There’s more work to be done to guarantee that the government lives up to its promise to be a good employer, and we couldn’t have a better ally in the White House to ensure we achieve that.”
Related: “Service Contract Workers Deserve Good Jobs” by Karla Walter and Anastasia Christman
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Julia Cusick at email@example.com.