Blog | Workplace Health and Safety

Congressional Republicans Attack a Law That Keeps Federal Contractors Accountable on Worker Safety and Fair Pay

Federal contractors who seek lucrative contracts with the government are subject to commonsense scrutiny of their worker safety and pay records, thanks to an executive order signed by then-President Barack Obama and the regulations implementing it.

Now congressional Republicans are callously moving forward on a plan to overturn these regulations in the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act.

AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director Bill Samuel sent the following letter to senators yesterday urging them to vote against the Congressional Review Act:

The regulations improve the contracting process and establish more fairness, so that companies that respect workers’ rights do not have a competitive disadvantage when competing against companies that cheat by misclassifying their workers as independent contractors, ignoring health and safety hazards, or engaging in wage theft. Repealing these regulations will remove an important incentive for companies to pay their workers what they are due, protect their health and safety, and comply with the law.

The regulations are needed because the current procurement system does an inadequate job screening prospective contractors and their compliance (or non-compliance) with the law. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, federal contracts have been awarded to companies with significant records of violating wage and hour, health and safety, and other worker protection laws. A report by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions similarly found that the government regularly awards federal contracts to companies with significant violations of worker protection laws.

Wiping out these regulations using the Congressional Review Act is a draconian and unnecessary act. If Congress adopts this resolution, agencies will be forever barred from adopting similar regulations in the future. This is overkill.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Republicans last night voted to use tax payer dollars to reward companies that violate safety regulations and cheat workers out of wages. The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule was put in place to make sure that government contractors comply with worker protection laws, including laws related to safety, sexual harassment, anti-discrimination, minimum wage and overtime. No party can claim they are for working people while allowing greedy companies to violate workers’ rights and still be paid by the federal government.