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Wage theft at Uncle Sam's place 

LowDown

How's this for irony? Ronald Reagan — who is worshiped 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 ever built.

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 the United States 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 Reagan Building's food court have filed formal complaints with the Labor Department, documenting that while work weeks 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 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 the effort to counter this despicable corporate conversion of government into a force for poverty jobs, contact Good Jobs Nation at GoodJobsNation.org.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

  • The building's public property, but food concessions have gone to fast-food chains.

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