There has been a proposal floating around urging congressional office buildings and federal agencies to give special hiring preferences to federal contractors who promise to take the high road – providing a living wage, fair healthcare and benefits. Like the previous “best value” federal procurement process that has been ditched because it was subjective and prone to corruption, this supposedly high road approach similarly increases the risk of politics, subjectivity, and corruption.
Instead, AFGE supports efforts to improve the lives of contractor workers by preventing scofflaw contractors from bidding on new contracts or keeping existing contracts, requiring all contractors to boost pay and benefits for their workers, making it easier for all contractor workers to join a union, and making the pay and benefits of all contractor workers public knowledge.
Last year, President Barack Obama issued the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order to ensure federal contractors’ compliance with important labor laws and regulations. The executive order aims to, among other things, crack down on companies that deny overtime wages, refuse to pay workers fairly because of their gender or age, or put workers’ health and safety at risk. These laws are enforced by the Labor Department and should not be undermined by subjective preferences that invite lobbying and corruption.
AFGE is following with interest this week’s publication by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council of proposed regulations and the Department of Labor’s issuance of related guidance to implement the executive order. AFGE supported the Clinton Administration’s contractor responsibility rule, referred to contractors as “the blacklist”, which would have made it difficult for contractors to win and retain contracts if they had violated labor, workplace safety, and consumer protection laws. The final rule was not issued until President Clinton was about to leave the White House, and his successor revoked it soon after assuming office.
“Had resources not been misdirected on the divisive “high road” effort for the last several years, this executive order would have already been in place,” AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten wrote to members of Congress.
AFGE is also concerned that these special preferences could be used to illegally outsource work performed by federal employees to contractors or prevent outsourced work from being insourced even when contractors perform poorly or cost too much.