March 7, 2017

Reed, Whitehouse Vote to Uphold Fair Pay Rules; Republicans Repeal Transparency Protections for Workers

Under Trump Administration, Republican Congress sides with special interests, rolls back safeguards for workers

Washington, DC – The United States Senate this evening voted to repeal President Barack Obama’s 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which helped ensure companies doing business with the federal government complied with laws related to workplace safety, sexual harassment, anti-discrimination, minimum wage, and overtime.  Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse voted to save the directive, which failed in a 49-48 vote. 

“Congress should work together to strengthen protections for workers, not undercut them.  We should be doing everything we can to improve transparency, fairness, and accountability in government contracting.  Instead, the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans are working hand in glove to roll back needed workplace protections and shield companies that routinely discriminate and mistreat workers,” said Senator Reed.  “This federal rule used transparency to hold contractors accountable and prevent them from shortchanging workers or discriminating in the workplace.  While today’s vote is a setback, I will continue fighting to ensure men and women are treated fairly in the workplace and to hold federal contractors accountable.”

“It’s hard to understand why Republicans wouldn’t want companies doing business with the government to follow the law and do right by their workers.  Rolling back this order sends the message that key workplace and civil rights laws—laws that defend against stolen wages, keep workers safe on the job, and prevent discrimination—simply don’t matter,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Today’s vote shows corporate special interests mean more to the Majority than prudent stewardship of taxpayer dollars or American workers’ rights and safety.”

According to a 2013 U.S. Senate report, federal contractors employ about 22 percent of the American workforce – approximately 26 million workers.  Furthermore, roughly a third of companies with the worst wage and safety violations receive federal contracts according to reports from the U.S. Senate and the Government Accountability Office.

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rules require contractors who bid on federal contracts over $500,000 to disclose any violations of worker protection laws before they can be awarded a contract.  Federal agencies work with non-compliant companies to remedy the problems and bring them into compliance. 

“On behalf of the women and girls we serve in Rhode Island and throughout the nation, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island strongly opposes the repeal of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order,” said Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of RI.  “This order ensures that workers get paid what they are owed and that workplaces are safe, healthy and fair.  Repealing these protections allows federal contractors to put business interests and profits over the lives and wellbeing of its workforce.”

Repeal of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rules was opposed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, Sierra Club, and the American Association for Justice, among dozens of other organizations.  The House of Representatives voted last month to repeal the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rules.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921