Army of New "Rosie the Riveters" Strikes in Nation’s Capital

Monday, June 23, 2014

Army of New (Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO)

 Hundreds of low-wage federal contract workers working for companies doing business at federal sites – like the National Zoo, Pentagon and Union Station – walked off their jobs today.  Led by an army of working women dressed like Rosie the Riveter, they marched through the Smithsonian National Zoo, where workers are joining the Good Jobs Nation campaign for the first time.  This is the 8th strike by low-wage federal contract workers in the past year. 

The “New Rosies” are calling on President Obama to allow them to collectively bargain, so they don’t need to keep striking to win living wages, health care, and paid time off to care for their families. “I'm 61 years-old and I have worked here close to three years,” said Joanne Kenon, a worker at the Smithsonian National Zoo. “I make only $9.80 an hour and I live with my sister and her husband because I cannot afford to live on my own. I have diabetes, and if I didn't have medical insurance through the state, I couldn't afford my medication. I don’t think I can ever afford to retire.” 

As the White House Summit on Working Families gathered Monday to discuss the challenges faced by low-wage women, a new report revealed that the U.S. government is the largest funder of low-wage jobs for women in the private sector. According to the public policy organization Demos, women work in 7 of the 10 low-wage jobs funded by the U.S. Government.  The report calls on the President to go beyond his recent Minimum Wage Executive Order raising the pay of federal contract workers to 10.10 an hour, which will only cover 200,000 workers. By issuing a Good Jobs Executive Order, Demos calculates that the President can put more than 20 million low-wage women, men, and their families on the path to the middle class with the stroke of a pen. 

“I want thank President Obama for raising my pay to over $10 an hour – but it’s not enough to support my mother and me,” said Jessenia Vega, who works at the McDonald’s inside the Pentagon. “My mother has dialysis and her treatment is very expensive, I am struggling to survive and pay my bills. Women like me work hard every day to serve our heroes in the Pentagon, but we get zero! We get poverty wages, no benefits and face discrimination because we are organizing a union!”
“Today, all these working women – the New Rosies – are here to ask the President to do more to help contract workers,” said Miguelina De Solano a worker from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum McDonald’s. “We need flexible scheduling, sick days, paid time-off, and health care benefits to care for our families.  We want to be able to form a union and bargain with our employers so we don’t have to keep striking to be heard.”


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