The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Low-wage workers strike at Smithsonian museums

eye-opener-logo6Low-wage workers connected with the nation’s marquee museum network held a strike on Thursday, continuing a string of recent demonstrations to promote better pay for employees at federal buildings.

Good Jobs Nation, a group representing low-wage workers employed under federal concession agreements, organized protests throughout the morning in front of several Smithsonian museums.

The events started with a press conference and a street-theater sketch near the Air and Space Museum, where actors playing Ronald McDonald and Uncle Sam climbed into bed together. That performance was meant to represent the relationship between private-sector CEOs and the federal government.

The group, consisting of more than 100 protestors, moved next to the Smithsonian Castle, where they demanded that President Obama take action to guarantee a “living wage” for workers employed at federal facilities.

The Smithsonian Castle locked its gates, preventing demonstrators from entering the garden area as they had planned. Participants marched to the National Mall side of the building instead to do their speakout.

Good Jobs nation has held three other demonstrations since May as part of its campaign. Earlier this month, the organization filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging wage theft by food vendors contracting with a firm that manages federal buildings for the General Services Administration.

The complaint claims that eight franchises operating at the Reagan Building in D.C. have paid employees less than the federal minimum wage and cheated them out of overtime pay. It does not make allegations against the Smithsonian Museums.

The Labor Department is investigating the firm that manages the Reagan Building, and GSA has promised to take action if the company has violated federal guidelines.

Good Jobs Nation has said it represents  “an invisible army of 2 million workers” who work jobs that range from greeting visitors and selling memorabilia at the Smithsonian museums to driving trucks that haul federal loads and making military uniforms.

Workers who participated in Thursday’s strike are employed by vendors licensed to do business at the Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum. They are not directly employed by the federal government.

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 with news tips and other suggestions.