Friday, February 15, 2019

Paying for the wall

In an economy where one in five jobs are held by contract workers, the federal government’s turn toward privatization translates to unstable wages, lack of benefits and temporary employment for the workers who clean, serve food and guard government buildings.

Despite the shutdown’s end, an estimated four million federally contracted workers from private companies have still not received a paycheck for the five weeks of work they lost due to the government’s closing. Federal contractors include support staff in federal buildings and are among the lowest paid federal workers, earning between $450 and $650 per week. While Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to give contract workers back pay, it remains unclear if the bill will pass.

Under normal circumstances, 78 percent of federal workers like Amy Fellows already live paycheck-to-paycheck. During the shutdown, 800,000 federal workers were either furloughed or working without pay. Workers turned to payday lenders and pawn shops to make ends meet. 

Adding insult to injury, Trump slashed payday loan protections days after the shutdown ended, heightening the already severe risks associated with the predatory debt traps, which can boast interest rates as high as 400 percent.

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