The workers’ case was bolstered by research studies issued by the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Center for American Progress, and the National Employment Law Project that show federal contractors routinely flout laws designed to protect America’s workers.
In addition to the strikes and studies, Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders conducted special hearings to investigate wage theft on federal contracts, spearhead passage of End Wage Theft Amendments on House spending bills and sent a letter to the President urging him to use his executive powers to curb legal violations.
In response, President Obama issued the Fair and Safe Workplaces Executive Order to ensure federal contractors disclose violations of federal labor laws.
Despite the evidence that stronger enforcement is required, powerful federal contract lobbies are threatening to fight the executive order in the courts and in Congress.
Yesterday, The New York Times Editorial Board fired back at the industry groups denying their “Right to Cheat and Maim” workers:
“It would seem noncontroversial to advise federal procurement officials to steer clear of companies with repeated and egregious violations that cheat, sicken, harm, and kill workers. But the pushback from industry was immediate…denouncing the order as a form of “blacklisting.”
Under existing law, federal officials can bar contracts to companies with serious labor law violations. Mr. Obama’s order helps to execute the law by requiring bidders for federal contracts to disclose their labor-law violations going back three years and by putting an official at each federal agency in charge of tracking the disclosures.
The administration has been careful not to burden contractors and certainly does not seek to penalize companies for isolated, inadvertent and easily correctable mistakes. If a company has not had any violations, it simply checks a box attesting to that fact. If a company reports violations, procurement officials are to look for evidence of pervasive, repeated, willful or serious wrongdoing in weighing whether to deny a contract.
It would be outlandish for industry groups to argue that procurement officials and the public do not have the right to know about a contractor’s compliance with federal labor laws or defend practices that hurt workers.
The contractors who oppose the order seem to have forgotten that they are bidding for taxpayer dollars. They are not entitled to contracts; they must qualify. And when they obtain a contract, they are working for the people, not the other way around.”
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