U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) called out President Donald Trump for “devaluing the life of the immigrant, the worker and the survivor” from the House floor on Tuesday, furthering her efforts to pass legislation which would compensate low-wage federal government contract workers who are not being paid during the partial government shutdown.
“Mr. Trump, you took an oath just as I did five days ago, to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people,” Pressley said. “Sir, you dishonor that oath. You devalue the life of the immigrant, the worker and the survivor. I see right through you and so do the American people.”
The partial shutdown, which has now lasted for 18 days, “has nothing to do with border security,” Pressley said. She called it a crisis that “has brought a tsunami of hurt” for “survivors fleeing violent hands, seeking safety, only to find the shelter door locked and families concerned about feeding their children because their WIC benefits will run dry.”
Pressley sent a letter to Congressional leaders, urging them to ensure that “any final funding agreement includes retroactive compensation for the thousands of low-wage government contract service workers that have had their lives put on hold as a result of President Trump’s obsession to fund a xenophobic hate wall.”
The legislation would require any federal contractor that has put low-wage workers on unpaid leave during the government shutdown to provide retroactive compensation to cover wages lost. The bill specifies that 2,000 “low-wage workers” to include retail, food, custodial or security services who currently will not qualify for back pay when the government does reopen.
Pressley said that the shutdown “threatens the livelihoods of more than 800,000 federal workers, none more so than contract service workers, many of whom work on an hourly basis, for low wages, and currently have no prospect of recouping wages lost as a result of the shutdown. We must ensure that contract services workers, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, are able to recover their lost wages.”
To date, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on in support of the Low-Wage Federal Contractor Employee Back Pay Act of 2019. re-introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
President Trump is scheduled to give a primetime television address from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, where he will make his case to fund a wall along the US-Mexico border. Trump has floated the idea of declaring a national emergency in order to secure $5.7 billion needed for construction. The longest government shutdown in US history lasted 21 days under the Clinton administration in 1995 and 1996.