Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces EO

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order requires contractors to comply with workplace laws before receiving new government contracts.

Please note that in the CRA process, this challenge is entitled H.J. Res. 37 – DOD’s GSA & NASA federal acquisition regulation.

OVERVIEW

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order helps ensure that all contractors comply with workplace laws, including health and safety standards, wage laws, and civil rights laws before they receive new contracts. The order promises to help raise standards for the more than one in five Americans employed by companies that do business with the federal government. It also will help prevent waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars and will allow law abiding businesses to compete on an even playing field.

Regulations implementing the order were finalized on Aug. 25, 2016, but a court order is preventing implementation. Advocates for workers, small businesses, veterans and people with disabilities, civil rights leaders, and many others support the policy.

Every year, the federal government contracts out hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services. Although federal law requires the government to contract only with responsible companies with “a satisfactory record of performance, integrity, and business ethics,” the contracting system does not effectively review companies’ responsibility records before awarding contracts.

According to a 2013 U.S. Senate report, 30 percent of the worst violators of workplace safety and wage laws continued to receive federal contracts. And in fiscal year 2012, the government awarded $81 billion in contracts to these companies.

Moreover, the worst violators often have significant performance problems. These problems, according to a Center for American Progress Action report, include contractors submitting fraudulent billing statements, cost overruns, performance problems and schedule delays that cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will help create a fair and consistent process by which the federal government can help ensure that all federal contractors comply with workplace laws and respect their workers.

IMPACTS

Too often, employees of federal contractors are cheated out of the wages they are owed, injured, or even killed on the job. Real people such as:

  • Jason Sweat, who claimed he went unpaid for many of the hours he worked destroying chemical weapons for a government contractor.
  • Rodney Bridgett, who was killed when a piece of heavy equipment crushed him.
  • Calvin Bryant, who was crippled in a workplace explosion that killed 14 co-workers.
  • Alma Aranda, who reportedly faced so much paperwork when attempting to access her legally guaranteed unpaid time off to care for her dying mother that her hair fell out in clumps.
  • Ana Ayala, who said her employer cut hours in violation of its government contract, forcing her to leave her daughter alone for longer hours in order to find additional jobs on nights and weekends.
OPPONENTS

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, several contracting trade associations and congressional Republican leadership oppose the rules, claiming that implementation of the order would be overly burdensome. Yet, the rules are similar to other legal reporting systems that have been in place in the federal procurement system for years and are currently working at the state level. Moreover, companies that hire contractors in the private sector are increasingly reviewing potential contractors’ workplace safety records, finding that this is a cost effective way to ensure future compliance. Indeed, at least 8 of the top-10 U.S. Department of Defense contractors already have experience reviewing their own contractors’ safety records—and some even go further than the order’s safety reporting requirements.

Not surprisingly a number of small businesses support the rules.  As construction contractor Bill Albanese stated about the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, “It makes good business sense to vet the contractor before he gets the job. It’s common in our industry; we do it all the time, and we don’t see it as being a burden to any legitimate fair contractor that’s playing by the rules.”

TABLE: Political Spending by Opponents of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces EO

Industry/Group Lobbying Political Spending % Political Spending to Republicans
National Association of Manufacturers $16,950,000 (2015) $39,112 (2016) 96%
 U.S. Chamber  $79,205,000 (2016)  $29,420,085 (2016) 99%

 

CONTACTS

Karla Walter, Center for American Progress, kwalter@americanprogress.org, (202) 682-1611

Glenn Adler, SEIU, glenn.adler@seiu.org, (202) 730-7335

Debbie Berkowitz, National Employment Law Project, dberkowitz@nelp.org, (202) 640-6520

RESOURCES

How Trump Could Protect Workers’ Rights
The New York Times: February 2, 2017

An Obama Executive Order That Trump Should Love
The Huffington Post: February 1, 2017

Congressional Vote Threatens Paychecks and Workplace Safety for Millions of Federal Contractors
Center for American Progress: January 31, 2017