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Trump at the future site of Trump Tower in 1980. (Photo: Ted Horowitz/Corbis/Getty Images)

'No One Should Be Surprised': After Long Career Stiffing Workers, Trump Blocks Back Pay for Federal Contractors

Lack of back pay for low-wage contractors also called a "policy and political failure" for Democratic leaders, who were accused of failing to publicly fight the president's cruelty

Jake Johnson

As a real estate mogul, Donald Trump was notorious for swindling low-wage workers out of pay.

So—as economist Robert Reich put it—"no one should be surprised" that Trump is continuing this cruel practice as president, this time by reportedly refusing to sign any government funding deal that includes back pay for the estimated 580,000 federal contractors who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for over a month due to the shutdown.

"Just in case you need more evidence that Donald Trump doesn't care about American workers, he views giving back pay to federal contractors like custodians and food service workers as a dealbreaker
—Rep. Mark Pocan

"I've been told the president won't sign that," Sen. Roy Blunt told ABC News, as Democrats made a last-minute push on Wednesday to attach back pay for contractors to the bipartisan federal spending package. "I guess federal contractors are different in his view than federal employees."

Unlike government employees, who are typically guaranteed compensation for lost pay following shutdowns, federal contractors are usually denied back pay because they work for third-party companies.

In response to Blunt's comment, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)—who, along with Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), has been pushing for back pay for contractors—declared on Twitter, "It would be cruel and unnecessary to block back pay for federal contract workers who lost more than a month of wages and are still behind on bills due to President Trump's shutdown."

But late Wednesday night, just hours after Blunt's remark, the final text of the spending agreement was made public—and its sprawling 1,768 pages does not include back pay for federal contractors.

"Just in case you need more evidence that Donald Trump doesn't care about American workers, he views giving back pay to federal contractors like custodians and food service workers as a dealbreaker," said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "This is egregious. Especially since he is the reason they didn't get paid."

But while Democrats worked behind the scenes to include back pay for contractors in the final spending agreement—which is expected to receive a vote before the full Congress as early as Thursday—analysts argued that Democratic negotiators and leaders share some of the blame for failing to publicly fight for some of the most vulnerable workers in the country.

"Letting Republicans anonymously kill back pay for federal contractors in some backroom seems like a policy and political failure for Democrats."
—Matt Fuller, Huffington Post

"Demanding pay for the 500,000 federal contractors who were locked out of work for 35 days seems like one of those things Democrats could take to the American people and shame Trump and other Republicans into doing the right thing," wrote Huffington Post reporter Matt Fuller. "[L]etting Republicans anonymously kill back pay for federal contractors in some backroom seems like a policy and political failure for Democrats."

While the agreement doesn't include back pay for contract workers, it does include over $1.3 billion in funds for fencing and barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and money for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—concessions by Democrats that rights groups have decried as deeply harmful to immigrant communities.

"Trump threatened to shut down the government again unless Congress gave him and his deportation force more cash to execute their racist vision of mass deportation, and while Democrats gave him the money, immigrant families will pay the price," Greisa Martinez Rosas, deputy executive director of United We Dream, told The Intercept.

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