Some Contractors Not Getting Rich

Many contractors hired by the federal government are poorly paid and poorly treated. Far from being the big ticket Beltway Bandits that get so much attention -- the consultants et al that make so much more per week than civil servants -- these workers must do the government's scut work.

That's according to a new report by the Democrat-leaning Center For American Progress Action Fund. (Yes, that's the group run by President-elect Barack Obama's transition chairman John Podesta.)

Though the report has a partisan flavor, it also has some very interesting facts.

"An estimated 80 percent of the 5.4 million federally contracted service workers are low-wage earners," says an overview by authors David Madland and Michael Paarlberg. "Contracted workers are often excluded from prevailing-wage law protections and, for many jobs, the minimum prevailing wage allowed is below a living wage. And contractors often violate labor laws."

The authors also assert:

"Companies that violate laws designed to protect workers are among the most wasteful of taxpayer funds, and contracted workers are often paid far less than taxpayers are charged."

In a story in The Post, Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson writes this:

"If you think of well-paid, highly skilled people like brainy engineers at Lockheed Martin or tough Blackwater gunmen in Iraq when you hear the phrase 'government contractors,' think again.

"Many contractors do grunt work and don't get paid much for it, says a report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. These people wash laundry, drive buses and dish food. They are rent-a-cops, janitors and laborers. They have titles of waiter, cook and cashier."

He checks in with Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents contractors.

Soloway believes there are "'valuable recommendations that could help improve federal contracting.'"

"But he's not happy with the report's tone and some of its data. Soloway doubts, for example, the 80 percent figure because, he said, professional services is the largest contracting category. Information technology and research and development work, gigs not populated by the poorly paid, also are big categories, he said. He also noted that the Service Contract Act requires employers to pay wages and benefits that are not less than those in the local market."

By Robert O'Harrow |  December 10, 2008; 1:58 PM ET Procurement Debate
Previous: Blackwater Whitewash? | Next: Contractors Must Disclose 'Credible Evidence' Of Fraud, Abuse


Please email us to report offensive comments.

How about starting over with the proposition that the people doing the "scut" work are not the contractors. They're contractor employees. I expect that the actual contractors are doing just fine.

If this column isn't going to get into the nuts and bolts of Federal Contracting, I don't think it's going anywhere. I personally didn't expect coverage of broad topics already under discussion in the general media.

Get out there and talk to the contracting officers if you want to contribute something that's lacking in your typical news coverage.

Posted by: st50taw | December 11, 2008 1:13 PM

Bank of America and Mr. Higgins missing $millions, It can happen to you, my fellow Americans

More info:

Posted by: srmaxhiggins | December 13, 2008 3:34 PM

when i worked for fema in sf, there were contract employees making much less than the 'prevailing union rates' supposedly guaranteed by davis bacon act or law. contractors were charging fema union wages and keeping most of it. who picks the contracting officer? some suckass incompetent political turkey.

Posted by: david_weinstock | December 16, 2008 9:30 AM

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