Group claims wage theft by food vendors in Reagan Building

(Updated June 28, 2013 at 2:20 p.m.)

Tuesday marks 75 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law, but a new workers-rights group gave the government little reason to celebrate on the eve of that anniversary.

Good Jobs Nation filed a complaint with the Labor Department on Monday, alleging wage theft against at least 30 workers by food vendors in federal facilities.

(Amanda Voisard/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
(Amanda Voisard/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The group claims eight franchises doing business at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington have paid employees below the federal minimum wage and ignored rules on overtime pay.

Each of the businesses operate under license agreements with Trade Center Management Associates, a company that contracts with the General Services Administration, according to the complaint.

That arrangement puts two degrees of separation between GSA and the alleged offenders, but it doesn’t mean the agency, which is still rebounding from past contracting and conference-spending abuses, can brush off the complaint.

Good Jobs Nation said in its complaint that the Labor Department should prioritize enforcement at the Reagan Building because of its highly visible location in the nation’s capital and because GSA benefits from the vendor operations. “These businesses remit revenues to, and thereby operate for economic benefit of, both TCMA and GSA,” the group said.

In a statement on Monday, GSA said it “takes steps to ensure that our contractors follow the law, and we take allegations of violations seriously.” A spokesman did not answer questions about the agency’s processes for ensuring contractor compliance with federal labor laws.

Businesses that continuously violate rules, regulations, and laws can face suspension and debarment action, which can prevent them from doing business with the federal government temporarily or permanently. Good Jobs Nation claims GSA renewed its TCMA contract without competition in 2008.

The group’s complaint alleges that one vendor at the Reagan Building avoided paying overtime by using multiple names for the same business to create the illusion that employees were working no more than 40 hours apiece for separate companies. Federal law requires businesses to pay overtime wages for non-salary work above 40 hours in most cases.

The complaint asks the Labor Department to investigate the employers for the alleged offenses and protect the workers who have come forward.

In May, food-service workers at the Reagan Building walked off the job as part of a day-long demonstration near the facility to protest low wages.

In a statement on Friday, Trade Center Management Associates noted that it has only entered into licensing agreements with the businesses in question, and that it did not hire, employ, or determine the wages of the workers involved in the complaint.

“If the allegations asserted in the complaint by Good Jobs Nation are investigated and validated by the Department of Labor, then TCMA will take the appropriate actions and steps per the license agreements,” the company said.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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