By Teamster General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, Sept. 7, 2016
The White House and Department of Labor took another step towards improving the lives of workers late last month when they issued final language for a rule that will put stronger protections in place for those employed by federal government contractors.
The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order establishes clear guidelines for federal agencies to implement when reviewing companies for federal contracts. It will hold companies doing work with the government accountable for violating workplace laws and prevent bad actors from receiving contracts.
The Teamsters have been out front on this issue, even passing a resolution of support during its 29th International Convention in June. Why? Because the union believes in the fundamental principle that employers who receive federal taxpayers’ money should comply with federal labor law. That means rejecting wage theft, safety violations and discrimination on the job.
As it stands, too many of the employers who receive taxpayer dollars through federal contracts fail to respect their workers’ rights under federal law, including the rights to organize without retaliation, to be paid fairly and to be protected from injury.
The new standards aren’t punitive. In fact, they are being phased in over time and will only consider contracts valued at $50 million or more initially. They also only deal with the most egregious of labor violations. Contractors can sit down with compliance officials and develop plans to fix violations before submitting bids. If a company takes corrective action, its bid will be considered. The new rules set a framework for compliance.
That isn’t stopping Republicans in Congress from attempting to shut down their implementation. Some are attempting to halt the rules from being applied to Defense Department contracts, which is the federal government’s top contracting agency. House and Senate Democrats as well as the White House have issued their opposition to such efforts.
This isn’t the first time objections have been raised to pro-worker rules approved by the Obama administration. A legislative effort is underway to curb new overtime regulations that more than doubled the salary cap for eligibility, while opponents of the so-called “persuader rule” that would halt the efforts of third-party union busters are using both the courts and Congress to try and prevent it from being implemented.
The fight to get these rules enacted that would help level the playing field for everyday Americans and unions in the workplace is not easy now. But it will never happen if voters in Michigan and elsewhere don’t realize what’s really at stake when they cast their ballots in November.
These are not headline-grabbing issues for most people. But they are essential to the well-being of millions of workers in this country. At a time when too many hard-working Americans are toiling more and more hours just to make ends meet, more money (as well are increased fairness on the job) is essential to supporting one’s family. That is accomplished by avoiding candidates who talk a big game but have no real plans to show how progress can be made.
All these gains can be taken away. Don’t vote for Republicans who expect these laws to remain on the books. They’re no friend to workers.