Congress Takes Action on Wage Theft


July 16, 2014


Rep. Keith Ellison introduced legislation to ban contractors found guilty of wage theft from receiving federal funds.

It’s common sense. Federal money shouldn’t line the pockets of known law-breakers. But many government contractors routinely violate labor and wage and hour laws, costing employees – and taxpayers – millions of dollars.


Congress finally took action July 10, voting to stop giving federal contracts to law-breaking companies.

The wage theft amendment, introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, was attached to three broader appropriations bills – defense, transportation and energy. It forbids government funds from going to contractors found guilty of wage theft or health and safety violations.

Wage theft occurs when an employer deliberately misclassifies an employee as an independent contractor – denying the workers access to Social Security, workers’ compensation and other federal benefits. It also involves ignoring minimum wage or overtime laws.

According to Good Jobs Nation, which advocates for low-paid federal workers, of the top 100 corporations found guilty of wage theft and health and safety, nearly 50 percent are federal contractors.

 “We can demonstrate that good standards at the workplace are what the federal government wants,” Ellison said. “We’re going to prioritize those companies that have a good record, and we’re going to exclude companies that don’t.”

Despite being sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the amendment received some Republican support.

The bills now move on to the Senate.

“Republicans can agree that if you are a federal contractor and you want to do business with the United States, you should be fair to your workers,” said Ellison.

Click here to tell Congress that ending wage theft should be part of all federal spending bills.