President Donald Trump has signed a Congressional Review Act resolution rolling back the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. This was the rule that requires bidders for federal contracts to disclose their labor law violations. The signing of the bill makes permanent a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the rule’s new reporting requirements on federal contractors and subcontractors, which had been set to take effect in October.
The contractor rule, called the “blacklisting rule” by opponents who say it unfairly smears companies alleged to have violated labor laws, requires potential federal contractors and subcontractors bidding on any federal deal worth more than $500,000 – with the exception of contracts for commercial off-the-shelf items – to disclose violations of labor laws going back three years. The rule was enacted in August by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council with accompanying U.S. Department of Labor guidance and an underlying 2014 executive order. The executive order stated at the time:
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.
Under the rule, those disclosures of violations and whether they purportedly show “serious, repeated, willful or pervasive” labor law violations would be taken into account by contracting officers when determining whether to award or extend contracts. Construction and security industry groups sued to block the rule a few weeks before it was set to take effect in October. A Texas federal court was told that the Obama administration exceeded its authority in issuing the rule. The opponents said the rule imposes “new regulatory burdens on government contractors that exceed and contradict Congress’ carefully balanced labor and employment law statutory scheme.”
U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone blocked the rule’s reporting provision and another portion that prohibits pre-dispute arbitration agreements between contractors and workers covering Title VII allegations and sexual assault or harassment torts. The CRA resolution rolls back the rule’s final provision requiring contractors to give workers detailed paycheck information including the number of hours they worked, their rates of pay and their gross pay. The House of Representatives passed the rollback bill by a nearly 50-vote margin in early February, and the measure narrowly passed the Senate.
It’s very difficult to understand why corporations seeking federal contracts shouldn’t have to disclose information that relates to their past performance involving safety issues. What am I missing? It would appear that workplace safety would be paramount and important to both the Trump White House and Congress.
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