Issued November 22, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, President Biden issued an Executive Order that requires companies that win government contracts to retain qualified workers as contracts change hands. Workers are celebrating the move as a critical next step within a suite of reforms aimed at protecting workers employed on federal contracts.
The federal government indirectly employs about 2 million workers through contractors covered by the Service Contract Act (SCA), often in low-wage industries such as waste management, call centers, and food services, industries characterized by workforces that are largely BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, and/or people with disabilities. They provide essential services to our government, but don’t get the benefits of being a government employee. Contracts often change hands, putting workers at constant risk of losing their jobs, and public programs losing their accumulated skills. President Biden’s Executive Order requires contractors to reduce turnover by offering workers the opportunity to keep their jobs when taking over a contract from another business.
“It would be such a relief to know that my job is protected because it would mean my family is protected too. In Virginia, most janitors don’t make this much or have these benefits which are so critical as a single mother with a child depending on me,” said Ana Ayala, a single mother living in Woodbridge, VA and 32BJ SEIU member janitor at Fort Belvoir in VA.
“It’s necessary to have this protection because many of us are older and won’t be able to find jobs with these kinds of wages and benefits. Our families rely on us and can’t survive without our income. I’m a single mother paying for my son’s college which wouldn’t not be possible without the job I have now.” Maria Del Pilar Constancia, a single mom with a son attending the University of Richmond living in Alexandria, VA and 32BJ janitor at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry said, “This order benefits thousands of SEIU members employed by federal contractors. These workers clean government buildings, protect travelers at San Francisco International Airport, and keep the public safe at historic sites like the Smithsonian Institution and in federal courthouses nationwide. Many of these essential workers are women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities whose work deserves to be respected, protected, and paid. Where the $15 minimum wage order lifted workers’ pay, today’s order helps ensure that workers are protected and their knowledge and experience is respected. We hope and expect that today’s order is another - but not the last - step to improve conditions for those whose essential work supports our federal government.”