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Column: Worker rip-offs in the Reagan building

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JIM HIGHTOWER, OtherWords

AUSTIN, Texas — How’s this for irony? Ronald Reagan — worshipped as the supreme deity by small-government, anti-spending zealots — not only has a government office building in Washington named for him, but it’s the biggest and costliest one built to date.

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The only face-saving factor in this sardonic incongruity is that managers of the Reagan Building have embraced a right-wing, laissez-faire concept that the Gipper enthusiastically championed: privatization of government jobs.

However, that hasn’t worked out to be a positive for his legacy, since Reagan’s edifice now stands as a model of private profiteering on the backs of workers. In effect, corporate contractors are using privatization and our tax dollars to transform America into a low-wage nation of gross inequality.

The building is public property, but its food concessions have been turned over to such multibillion-dollar fast-food chains as Subway. Not only do they pay low wages with no benefits, but they’re also being charged with “serious, willful, and chronic” wage theft.

In particular, workers in the food court have filed formal complaints with the Labor Department, documenting that while workweeks of 60, 70, and even 80 hours are common, they’re “never paid overtime.” Not only is this a rank violation of our Fair Labor laws, but the practice also means they are being paid less than the minimum wage.

Come on — even Reagan favored at least a minimal level of decency, fairness and respect for workers. Where’s the morality in CEOs grabbing tax dollars to help subsidize their lavish executive pay packages, then turning around and stiffing their own workers in our name? To help counter this despicable corporate conversion of government into a force for poverty jobs, contact Good Jobs Nation at GoodJobsNation.org.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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