The actions came a day after the D.C. Council approved
requiring large retailers to pay their employees 50 percent more than the District’s $8.25-an-hour minimum wage.
Good Jobs Nation asserts that the federal government should not tolerate agreements with contractors who pay low wages.
About 50 private-sector employees scheduled to work at federal buildings Thursday were among about 100 people who participated in the rallies, Good Jobs Nation said. It described the demonstrations as a strike.
In a statement released about the protests, the group quoted workers such as Ana Hernandez, a McDonald’s employee at Air and Space who spoke about living on an annual income of $11,000.
“You have to make hard choices, like putting food on the table or paying the bills, having electricity or buying clothes for your children,” Hernandez said in the statement. “We deserve a living wage for the hard work we do.”
Linda St. Thomas, a Smithsonian spokeswoman, said, “We understand their concerns, but we don’t control these companies. We’re not in charge of the wages and benefits of their employers, but we obviously make sure every business operates in line with local and federal laws.”
St. Thomas also questioned the characterization of the Good Jobs protests as a strike, noting that the organization paid the protesting workers $125 apiece.
Zoe Bridges-Curry, a Good Jobs spokeswoman, said the payments are standard in labor disputes and said workers delivered strike notices to employers.
“It’s common practice for strikers to receive remuneration for the time they are on strike so they can cover their basic needs,” she said. Supporters from the community did not receive compensation, she said.
St. Thomas said the museum restaurants were able to operate all day.
Thursday’s protests included a bit of street theater near the National Air and Space Museum, where actors portraying Ronald McDonald and Uncle Sam climbed into bed together. Ronald also accepted a $1 million check for executive compensation while handing a check to an employee for $8.25 an hour.
Good Jobs has demanded President Obama take action to guarantee a “living wage” for workers at federal facilities.
The group also posted a YouTube video of a small contingent visiting the home of Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough and requesting his support.
“You guys really have to talk to your employers . . . instead of me, because we contract with those companies,” said Clough, who then wished the contingent well.
Good Jobs has held four demonstrations since May, and this month it filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging wage theft by food vendors licensed to do business in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The group claims eight franchises operating at the federal facility have paid employees less than the federal minimum wage and cheated them out of overtime pay.