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New Federal Contractor Rules Will Spotlight Scofflaws Who Cut Corners and Put Workers at Risk

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Press Contacts: 

Contact:  Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, roger@nationalcosh.org

For immediate release August 24, 2016

San Diego – Regulations announced today to implement President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces are a smart step forward for workers, businesses and taxpayers, says the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

“As a homeowner, you wouldn’t want to hire a painting company that uses rickety ladders and puts workers at risk on your property,” said National COSH Acting Executive Director Jessica Martinez. “Taxpayers also want fair value for money spent on government contracts, instead of hiring scofflaws who cut corners and put workers at risk.”

The federal government buys hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods and services from private contractors every year, and the vast majority of these businesses comply with health and safety, wage and hour, civil rights, and other laws offering protection in the workplace.

“From now on, companies applying for federal contacts worth more than $500,000 will have to report their history of workplace violations,” said Martinez. “This leads to better quality services and reduces the hidden costs that result from injured workers and those not receiving a living wage. There’s no blacklist of these companies. Once there is a spotlight on these problems, however, there will be an incentive to settle and remediate these violations, so taxpayers can be sure their money is being spent efficiently and workers are treated fairly.”

A study by the Center for American Progress Action Fund showed that federal contractors with a history of repeat workplace violations “were also often guilty of shortchanging taxpayers through poor performance on government contracts.”

The responsible contractor policy that will be enforced by the regulations issued today, Martinez said, “ensures that contractors cannot underbid public contracts by shortchanging their workforce, a practice that creates public costs elsewhere when those workers rely on publicly-subsidized health insurance and other benefits.”

Responsible contracting policies, Martinez added, “also ensure that the worst actors in the market place do not have the opportunity to profit from public contracts.”

“We’ll hear a lot of the usual complaints today from business associations about the ‘burden’ of government regulation,” said Peter Dooley, senior organizer at National COSH. “The real burden of bad business practices falls on workers, who are exposed every day to preventable illnesses and injuries on the job – and who are often subject to illegal retaliation when they exercise their right to a safe workplace.”

“Businesses that comply with workplace laws shouldn’t have to compete with those who don’t,” said Dooley. “The regulations announced today are a smart move to create a level playing field for workers and businesses.”

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.