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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

DISAPPROVING A RULE SUBMITTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, THE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION, AND THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION

February 2, 2017
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

   Before I address the disapproval resolution, I just want to acknowledge the important role Federal contractors have in meeting the needs of the Federal Government. Employment and critical services in many districts, including my own, are heavily reliant on Federal contractors, including those who serve a critical role for our Nation, supporting the needs of the military, the Coast Guard, Homeland Security, and many others.

   That said, it is imperative that contractors are bidding on a level playing field when they compete for contracts. Unfortunately, this resolution would effectively reward contractors who cut corners, endanger the rights of their workers, and, studies show, compromise quality.

   Although most Federal contractors obey labor laws, studies by the GAO, the Senate HELP Committee, and others document that Federal contractors with histories of serious, willful, and repeated violations of labor employment and nondiscrimination laws continue to be rewarded with Federal contracts.

   For context, it is important to know that contracting rules already require agencies to determine whether or not a prospective contractor is responsible before awarding a contract. Amongst the criteria considered is whether or not the contractor has ``a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics,'' and ``a satisfactory performance record.''

   As previous speakers have noted, violations can already be considered. However, contracting officers don't have access to a list of those violations until this rule is issued, nor are contracting officers required to review a bidder's labor violations history.

   The rule implementing the executive order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces does not add any extra layers of review. Rather, it would fill that data gap by requiring contractors to disclose whether they have violations of 14 longstanding labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, OSHA, Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act, and nondiscrimination laws.

   It only applies to contracts over $500,000, so we are not talking about mom-and-pop operations. But if listing those violations of fair pay and safe workplace laws constitutes an administrative burden, more the reason to make them be listed.

   They are to be disclosed. And although we have heard about allegations, and although some violations may not be final, the only thing that has to be disclosed are those violations for which there has been an agency determination. That is, an allegation is made, it is investigated, and the company has been found to be in violation. It may be on appeal or whatnot, but there has at least been an agency determination of guilt.

   The rule requires contracting officers to focus on

   whether such violations are serious, repeated, willful or pervasive. The rule helps bring those contractors with a history of violations into compliance by way of labor compliance agreements so they can continue to be considered for contracting opportunities while they improve their records.

   Some have mislabeled this rule as the ``blacklisting rule,'' but this suggestion and characterization ignores the rules' meaningful compliance provision. The reality is that this rule would, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, encourage agency contract officials to push bidders with serious labor law violations ``to enter into labor compliance agreements'' rather than to disbar or suspend them.

   I want to point out that a coalition of 20,000 construction contractors submitted testimony to the Small Business Committee where they wrote: ``Employers--primes and subs have more rights, remedies and redress for non-responsibility determinations based on lack of integrity or business ethics under the executive order than the current Federal Acquisition Regulation procedures specifically provide.''

   Now, this testimony suggests that the rules are far more contractor-friendly than the detractors have characterized.

   It would be premature to dismantle this rule because it hasn't even been put into effect because it has been under a court injunction. Further, repealing the rule under the CRA would bar future consideration of substantially similar rules unless Congress enacts subsequent enabling legislation.

   So the bottom line is that there are winners and there are losers if this legislation passes. The winners, if this legislation passes, would be companies who willfully, and repeatedly, and pervasively violate labor laws. The winners would be the contractors who cut corners and gain an unfair competitive advantage over law-abiding contractors.

   The losers will be workers who are employed by Federal contractors. They will be more susceptible to wage theft, unfair working conditions, and unsafe workplaces run by unscrupulous contractors. Losers will be the law-abiding contractors who lose contracts because they abide by the laws protecting their workers.

   This is why the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule enjoys support from a widespread number of businesses, veterans, civil rights, and labor organizations from the Easterseals to Paralyzed Veterans of America, to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. That is why I oppose this legislation.