Will Trump be a champion for federal contract workers too?

I didn’t vote for our new president Donald J. Trump, but I really want to believe in the promise he made to America’s workers. 

As a low-wage federal contract worker, I’m hopeful that Mr. Trump meant it when he declared that “Every policy decision we make must pass a simple test: Does it create more jobs and better wages for Americans?’’

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So when Mr. Trump announced that he saved the jobs of 1,000 Carrier workers in Indiana, it gave me hope.  He was able to make a deal because United Technologies, the parent corporation of Carrier, didn’t want to risk losing $5 billion worth of contracts with the U.S. Government.  

By using taxpayer dollars as leverage, Mr. Trump’s negotiation sent a warning that companies receiving federal contracts should not ship jobs overseas. Now, as America’s next CEO, I hope he goes even further and tells these federal contractors that they can’t get taxpayer dollars if they steal wages and create poverty jobs right here in the United States.

For six years, I have worked as a federal contract worker for the Federal Emergency Management Agency answering the calls of victims of natural disasters. My job is to help Americans rebuild their homes after a crisis.

My superiors have recognized me as a great worker. I care about people, and the folks I help notice. Over the years, many of them have gotten in touch with my superiors to let them know how much they appreciate the help I provide. But the truth is I’m living my own disaster.

Even though I help Americans who are temporarily homeless and living in emergency shelters and school gyms, I make so little that I became homeless myself. 

I had to rely on friends for a roof over my head, couch surfing from place to place until I had saved up enough to get a place of my own. To make matters worse, my employer should be paying me a higher wage according to the law.

When I think about where my life would be if I earned what I am supposed to be making, I feel robbed of my dignity. If my employer was following the law and not cheating me out of my wages, I wouldn’t have to rely on charity to put food on the table.  

I could also afford some of the medication I need to treat asthma and get the therapy I need for the back issues I’m suffering after six years of sitting at a desk day in and day out helping out folks who have lost everything.

That’s why I am joining with other federal contract workers to file a wage theft complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor.  We’re not the only victims of federal contractors who cheat Americans out of good jobs. Experts say people like me who work for federal contractors lose up to $2.5 billion each year to violations of minimum wage laws. 

These contractors, who continue to get away with underpaying us while they keep their contacts, violate everything that makes America great. A fair wage for a fair day’s work is what we’re all raised to believe, right?   

My real hope is that we won’t need the DOL to step in because our president-elect promised to be the president of all workers, especially “the forgotten men and women of America. People who work hard but don’t have a voice.’’

I hope Mr. Trump listens to me and my co-workers like he listened to the Carrier workers in Indiana.  I hope it’s not a one-time deal.

LaToya Williams works as a federally contracted call center representative for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill