Monday, September 1, 2014

What's Right for Federal Contractors Is Right For Everyone Else

Jobs, wages, benefits and conditions for workers don't have to mean a race to bottom, every state trying to attract companies with the closest-to-slavery environment possible.

It could be a race in the other direction, every state creating the best possible working environment to attract the workers every company wants to have.

It was that way once, during the 40-year heyday of labor unions and Eisenhower's job-creating big government.  It could be again.

Donald Cohen at TPM:

This year, workers across the country have a lot to celebrate, thanks in part to a series of executive orders signed by President Obama, including the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which cracks down on federal contractors who violate labor laws.

In a significant step towards greater accountability for private contractors, corporations will be required to report their labor violations in updates to government agencies every six months, and contractors will also be responsible for making sure any subcontractors are playing by the rules as well. Additionally, the report directs contractors not to require employees to enter into pre-dispute arbitration agreements for sexual assault and harassment crimes, as well as violations of the Civil Rights Act.
Most importantly, any contractor that’s found to violate labor laws will be restricted from competing for certain contracts, and government agencies will have additional guidance on how to take labor violations into account in their process of awarding contacts. This will help keep taxpayer dollars out of the coffers of companies that are guilty of repeated violations that endanger the lives of workers and cheat employees out of pay.

The order represents a major step forward for increasing accountability and transparency among federal contractors, as well as protecting contracted employees by giving them more tools to fight back against workplace discrimination or harassment and ensuring that they are paid a fair wage.
Unfortunately, this will only be an improvement for workers at companies that contract with the federal government. That is why governors across the country should take similar steps on the state level to prohibit companies that have evaded taxes, broken the law, or mistreated workers from taking over public services. When state and local governments take these issues seriously workers, their families, and their communities all stand to benefit.

All too often, state and local governments are sold the false promise of outsourcing public jobs to private companies, with the expectation that businesses can do things “better, faster, and cheaper” than the government can. Unfortunately for taxpayers and workers, these promises rarely materialize, and taxpayers are too often left holding the bag while corporations make millions by cutting the quality of services and wages and benefits for workers. Even worse, in many states there is no mechanism to prevent future deals to outsource services to the same corporations that have proven that they can’t be trusted.

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