Fast Food Workers March on White House, Pick Up Senate Support

WASHINGTON —Some 175 low-paid – and sometimes unpaid – workers in fast food restaurants in federal buildings marched on the White House on Sept. 25, demanding Democratic President Barack Obama issue an executive order solving the pay problems.

The workers, who toil for contractors who operate fast food restaurants at the federally owned Reagan Building a few blocks away from the White House, picked up 15 senators’ support for their demand that Obama order any contractor operating in such facilities, nationwide, to pay them living wages.

Union-backed Good Jobs Nation, which organized the latest protest and prior walkouts from fast food eateries at the Smithsonian, the Reagan Building and Union Station, added workers demand the right to vote to unionize without firm interference.

“Despite the president’s pledge to do everything in his power to help the middle class and combat income inequality, he has failed to sign an executive order requiring companies doing business with the federal government to pay a living wage – one step within his power to raise 2 million workers out of poverty,” Good Jobs Nation said.

“While the company I work for benefits from doing business with the federal government, I can’t even afford the basics like food and rent,” worker Delano Wingfield told a press conference.  “I have worked at Union Station for over a year, but I still only make $9 an hour on federal government property.  It’s not right.  President Obama needs to take leadership and right this wrong, which is entirely in his power.”

“The federal government has the opportunity to lead the way towards fair wages for America’s families,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who spoke at a prior 1-day strike by the Union Station fast food workers.   “In the richest nation in the world, the brave workers marching today should be able to support their families and give their children a chance at a better future,” he added.

At that prior rally, Ellison said he raised the workers’ claims during a Congressional Black Caucus meeting with the president.  Obama said then he would look into it, but Ellison has heard nothing since.

Meanwhile, 15 senators, organized by Sen. Bernard Sanders, Ind.-Vt., wrote to Obama on Sept. 25 backing the workers’ demands.  They said since the ruling House GOP plans to do nothing for either low-paid workers or the middle class, the president would have to step in.  “Use your executive authority to order federal agencies to give preference in awarding contracts to companies that pay a minimum wage of no less than $10.10 an hour and that pay their workers decent wages and benefits,” the senators recommended.