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Monday, September 1, 2014

Paying the fare for fair wages

Contractors, and their subcontractors, will have their feet held a little closer to the legal fires to get or keep their contracts with the US federal government under the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order released July 31, 2014.

It's a typically legalistic Order, so the President also released a "Fact Sheet" 'splaning what the Order is "supposed" to say (read the paper at the link; I'm as usual only cutting, pasting, deleting, paraphrasing, extracting, re-arranging, commenting, etc. to suit myself):

FACT SHEET: Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order
The Department of Labor estimates that there are roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, employing about 28 million workers.

Taxpayer dollars should not reward corporations that break the law, so today President Obama is cracking down on federal contractors who put workers’ safety and hard-earned pay at risk. As part of this Year of Action, the President will sign an Executive Order that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. By cracking down on federal contractors who break the law, the President is helping ensure that all hardworking Americans get the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve. [So the Order does not apply to those workers who do not work hard?]

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will govern new federal procurement contracts valued at more than $500,000. We expect the Executive Order to be implemented on new contracts in stages, on a prioritized basis, during 2016.

Key Provisions

1. Hold Corporations Accountable: Under the terms of the Executive Order, agencies will require prospective contractors to disclose labor law violations from the past three years before they can get a contract. Agencies will also require contractors to collect similar information from many of their subcontractors.

2. Crack Down on Repeat Violators: Contracting officers will take into account only the most egregious violations, and each agency will designate a senior official as a Labor Compliance Advisor to provide consistent guidance on whether contractors’ actions rise to the level of a lack of integrity or business ethics. The Executive Order will ensure that the worst actors, who repeatedly violate the rights of their workers and put them in danger, don’t get contracts and thus can’t delay important projects and waste taxpayer money. [What bright lines are there to determine an egregious labor law violation, to ferret out from all egregious violations only the "most" egregious, and to decide how many repeats during what time frame constitutes "repeated" violations? Without those facts, this is just a policy statement.]

3. Promote Efficient Federal Contracting: Last year, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin issued a report revealing that dozens of contractors with significant health, safety, and wage and hour violations were continuing to be awarded federal contacts. Another study detailed that 28 of the companies with the top workplace violations from FY 2005 to FY 2009 subsequently received federal contracts, and a quarter of those companies eventually had significant performance problems as well—suggesting a strong relationship between contractors with a history of labor law violations and those that cannot deliver adequate performance for the taxpayer dollars they receive. Because the companies with workplace violations are more likely to encounter performance problems, today’s action will also improve the efficiency of federal contracting and result in greater returns on federal tax dollars. [That passes for a "finding" and a hope, not an order.]

4. Protect Responsible Contractors: The vast majority of federal contractors have clean records. The Executive Order builds on the existing procurement system, so it will be familiar to contractors and will fit into established contracting practices. Responsible businesses will check a single box on a bid form indicating that they don’t have a history of labor law violations.

5. Focus on Helping Companies Improve: The goal of the process created by the Executive Order is to help more contractors come into compliance with workplace protections, not to deny contracts to contractors. Companies with labor law violations will be offered the opportunity to receive early guidance on whether those violations are potentially problematic and remedy any problems. Contracting officers will take these steps into account before awarding a contract and ensure the contractor is living up to the terms of its agreement.

6. Give Employees a Day in Court: The Executive Order directs companies with federal contracts of $1 million or more not to require their employees to enter into predispute arbitration agreements for disputes arising out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or from torts related to sexual assault or harassment (except when valid contracts already exist).

7. Give Employees Information About their Paychecks: The Executive Order requires contractors to give their employees information with their pay stub concerning their hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and any additions to or deductions made from their pay, so workers can be sure they’re getting paid what they’re owed.

8. Streamline Implementation and Overall Contractor Reporting: The Executive Order directs the General Services Administration to develop a single website for contractors to meet their reporting requirements—for this order and for other contractor reporting. Contractors will only have to provide information to one location, even if they hold multiple contracts across different agencies. The desire to “report once in one place” is a key theme in the feedback received from current and potential contractors.

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