Senate Democrats And White House Want Labor Department To Improve Federal Contracts

Senate Democrats urged Labor Secretary Thomas Perez Friday to follow an executive order issued by the president over the summer to help promote efficiency and fairness for federal contractors.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with 19 other senators wrote a letter to Perez urging him to implement the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order.

“Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces will create a fair and consistent process to better ensure all federal contractors are responsible, and help ensure taxpayers get the best quality for their money,” their letter read.

The executive order will require federal agencies to look at how a contractor handles workplace safety and compensation before they will be granted or allowed to renew a federal contract.

“Overall, the investigation found that the contracting companies assessed the highest penalties over the previous five years were cited for 1,776 separate violations of safety and wage laws and paid $196 million in fines — yet were awarded $81 billion in taxpayer dollars in fiscal year 2012,” the letter continued. “This is unfair to the workers of these employers, violates the trust of the taxpayers and hurts the companies that are working hard and playing by the rules.”

When the president first issued the executive order, the White House argued in a memo it will significantly help workplace efficiency for federal contractors.

“This order seeks to increase efficiency and cost savings in the work performed by parties who contract with the Federal Government by ensuring that they understand and comply with labor laws,” the memo claimed.

“Labor laws are designed to promote safe, healthy, fair, and effective workplaces,” the memo continued. “Contractors that consistently adhere to labor laws are more likely to have workplace practices that enhance productivity and increase the likelihood of timely, predictable, and satisfactory delivery of goods and services to the Federal Government.”

Not everyone however is in support of the executive order. Geoff Burr, president of government affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), said the order would add unnecessary costs.

“This executive order dramatically changes the enforcement mechanisms carefully put in place by Congress and needlessly adds uncertainty, subjectivity and onerous and costly new data collection and reporting requirements for federal contractors,” Burr said in a statement.

“While the Obama administration seeks to add these compliance burdens to federal contractors, it is seemingly ignoring the fact that its own Department of Labor and other federal agencies have violated these same complex and frequently changing federal labor laws,” he continued.

“We believe that bad actors should be held accountable and we are supportive of efforts to improve and streamline the federal procurement process that will result in a better system for taxpayers, contractors and the American workers, but the impact of this executive order will run counter to those goals,” Burr detailed. “ABC, along with other business groups that represent the federal contracting community, remains committed to fighting this order in the courts and in Congress should it not be withdrawn.”

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