POLITICS

Homeless U.S. Capitol Workers Crowdfund To Help Fellow Workers

04/28/2015 05:55 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2015

Last week, contract workers at the U.S. Capitol went on strike to advocate for better working conditions and higher wages. Now, some of those workers are taking further action by raising money online to support their fellow workers.

The Good Jobs Nation Worker Fund aims to raise $50,000 to help low-wage contract workers working at the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian, the Pentagon and other government buildings. The federal government is effectively the largest employer of contract workers. The government employs them through private contracting companies, which make billions of dollars in profits, while many of their workers can barely make ends meet.

The crowdfunding campaign is being led by homeless Senate contract worker Charles Gladden. By day, Gladden works as a custodian in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. By night, he sleeps at Washington's McPherson Square Metro station. His story prompted the attention of several senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who wrote a letter to the Senate Rules Committee asking for better wages and benefits for Senate contract workers.

Gladden’s plight also caught the eye of Boyz II Men lead singer Nate Morris. Over the weekend, Morris started a crowdfunding campaign and personally pitched in $10,000 to help Gladden find a home. Others quickly raised another $11,000.

Now, Gladden wants to raise money for his fellow contract workers.

“I’m grateful to Nate and everyone else who pitched in to share my story and made a contribution. I now have a shot to get ahead and stay ahead,” he said in a statement. “But the truth is that I’m not alone. All of my co-workers are worried about losing their homes, saving for retirement and just putting food on the table. … There are at least 2 million other ‘Charles Gladdens’ out there all across America.”

The crowdfunding campaign is part of the Good Jobs Nation movement, which has been organizing federal contract workers and coordinated similar strikes since May of 2013.

In addition, Good Jobs Nation has filed complaints with the Department of Labor and advocated for President Barack Obama’s executive action that mandates a $10.10 minimum wage for all new federal contract workers. It is now organizing for an executive order that would give preference to contracting companies that pay workers $15 an hour and give workers paid leave and the right to unionize.

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