Demonstrators to demand collective-bargaining for federally contracted workers

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Labor organizers have planned a demonstration in the nation’s capital on Thursday to demand collective-bargaining rights and a minimum-wage hike for federally contracted employees.

President Obama this year already issued an executive order establishing a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour for the workers, who largely consist of laborers and service employees for federal vendors. Many of the workers hold jobs at the fast-food restaurants in government buildings.

But Good Jobs Nation, a coalition of labor and civil-rights groups, claims the new rate falls short of a “living wage” for the workers. In an announcement on Thursday, the organization said $10.10 is “not enough to afford the health care, child care and educational opportunities their children need.”

Strike participants gather in the hundreds to protest minimum wage standards in the United States on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at Union Station in Washington D.C. (Amanda Voisard/For The Washington Post)
Strike participants gather to protest minimum wage standards in the United States on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at Union Station in Washington D.C. (Amanda Voisard/For The Washington Post)

The group wants the Obama administration to formally recognize Good Jobs Nation as a union so the organization can negotiate for higher wages and benefits on behalf of the employees.

The coalition claims to have influenced Obama’s minimum-wage order this year with seven demonstrations that took place in the District of Columbia during the eight months leading up to the action.

The president has called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour, promising in his 2014 State of the Union address to lead by example with the executive order for federally contracted employees.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Thursday announced a proposed rule to implement Obama’s directive. “Raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts will provide a much-needed boost to many who are working hard but still struggling to get by,” he said in a statement.

The wage issue remains at the center of Obama’s economic agenda, and many Democratic lawmakers are echoing his calls as the November midterms near. Many conservatives argue that raising the minimum pay rate would lead to less hiring.

Good Jobs Nation said Obama could add a positive note to his legacy by ensuring collective-bargaining rights for federally contracted employees. In its announcement, the group said the move would represent one of the largest efforts to help American workers join unions since the New Deal.

The demonstration is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

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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Josh Hicks · June 11