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Rep. Mark Pocan introduces bill to vet federal contractors for safety violations

Mark Pocan

Washington – Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) has introduced legislation intended to protect employees of companies that perform work for the federal government.

The Contractor Accountability and Workplace Safety Act would require the Department of Defense to vet contractors who bid on contracts (or seek renewal of contracts) of $1 million or more for past labor-law violations. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a similar bill in June.

In March, President Donald Trump revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which required employers bidding for federal contracts valued at $500,000 or more to disclose any of 14 established labor-law violations during the previous three years.

“When the federal government grants a contract, workers should have the assurance that their workplace is safe and their employer does not have a history overrun with labor-law violations,” Pocan said in a Oct. 24 press release. “The Contractor Accountability and Workplace Safety Act would restore many protections for workers and help ensure that the U.S. government allocates federal taxpayer dollars responsibly.”

Companies bidding on contracts currently are subject to vetting, but the emphasis is on checking for business-related behavior and not on worker protections, the release states.

The bill directs Department of Defense contracting officers – individuals who decide which companies are selected – to check OSHA inspection records for violations by the bidding contractor and any subcontractors.

The bill also requires DOD to train contracting officers on how to properly evaluate bidding contractors’ safety records. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office would assess DOD’s procedures for evaluating contractors’ safety records and whether the Department of Labor has the resources to investigate contractors for safety and health violations.

“Every American deserves a safe workplace, but too often, federal contractors break labor laws and endanger their employees while continuing to suck down millions of dollars in government contracts,” Warren said in the press release. “This legislation will help ensure that companies that threaten the health and safety of their workers won’t receive another dime from American taxpayers.”

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