Industry challenges to President Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order would double-down on broken federal contracting system

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Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers

(October 11, 2016) Washington, DC - Late last week, lobbyists representing more than 400,000 federal contractors quietly filed a lawsuit intended to block President Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which would protect low-wage workers on federal contracts from serious labor law violations like wage theft.

"In an economy where working people lose tens of billions of dollars to wage theft every year, the federal government should be the standard-bearer for fair labor practices, not playing catch-up," said Rev. Doug Mork, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice. "The president's executive order would ensure that those working people who are on contract with the federal government are paid in full and treated with dignity and respect as they perform the often unseen labor that keeps the wheels of the federal government turning.

"We know that wage theft by federal contractors is rife. A United States Senate investigation found that nearly one-third of companies that receive the most serious penalties for federal labor law violations were federal contractors.

"A Government Accountability Office analysis showed that known labor law violators have continued to receive lucrative government contracts because of lax government oversight and enforcement, exposing a deep and systemic problem that must be addressed. The president's executive order would do just that."

Working people employed by federal contractors echoed the urgent need for better oversight and enforcement against wage theft and other violations.

"This executive order would make sure other workers aren't victimized by wage theft like I was," said Sonia Chavez, a federal contract cleaner who recovered $20,000 in back-pay and damages.  "We already earn low wages, so when contractors steal our hard-earned money, it adds insult to injury."

"When someone steals a loaf of bread at a store, they get arrested," said Magaly Ramirez, a food service contract worker at the Pentagon. "But when a company steals wages from workers, they rarely face serious consequences.  This executive order will fix that by punishing outlaw contractors."

The president's executive order is scheduled to go into effect later this month.

Interfaith Worker Justice is a national network of more than 60 worker centers and faith-labor organizations committed to dignity and justice for all working people.