Press Release

New Reports from American Worker Project

Two New CAP reports on Contracting and Dept of Labor


Washington, DC – The Center for American Progress Action Funds’ American Worker Project released two new reports, one on enforcing workers’ rights at the Department of Labor and the other on federal contracting and upholding high standards in the way contracting companies treat workers. Below are summaries of the two reports, with link to the full text:

Making Contracting Work for the United States

By David Madland, Michael Paarlberg

The government’s lack of knowledge about the contracted workforce is shocking and unacceptable. Information about contractors—and especially their subcontractors—is veiled behind layers of lax oversight, inadequate record keeping, and unnecessary secrecy.

This report attempts to pierce this veil by providing one of the first examinations of the federally contracted workforce. As the report makes clear, too many companies that receive federal contracts treat their workers poorly and fail to pay adequate wages or benefits. Among the report’s key findings:

  • Low quality jobs are a widespread problem.
  • Poor treatment of workers and taxpayers are linked.
  • Workers and taxpayers are harmed by a lack of transparency and inadequate oversight.
  • President Bush exacerbated waste and poor treatment of contracted workers.

The findings in this report make clear that the contracting process needs significant reforms. The federal government needs to live up to the letter and spirit of existing laws to ensure that contracted workers have decent jobs and taxpayers get the best value for their money. This will require not only better enforcement of existing laws and regulations, but also a new focus on raising standards.

Read the full report (pdf)


Enforcing Change

Five Strategies for the Obama Administration to Enforce Workers’ Rights at the Department of Labor

By David Madland, Karla Walter

From air pollution to food safety to children’s toys, one of the hallmarks of President George W. Bush’s administration has been its failure to enforce laws designed to protect ordinary Americans. This failure is perhaps nowhere more evident than at the Department of Labor, where the Obama administration will have an opportunity and an obligation to correct the Bush administration’s inadequate enforcement of important workplace protections.

The new report recommends five major strategies for a new Department of Labor, in short, those strategies are:

· Opportunity 1: Use penalties to create a culture of accountability.

· Opportunity 2: Increase enforcement staff and use partnerships to assist underfunded enforcement divisions.

· Opportunity 3: Target high-violation sectors with strategic initiatives.

· Opportunity 4: Use thorough record keeping to drive enforcement priorities, enhance public accountability, and improve performance evaluation.

· Opportunity 5: Strengthen immigrant protections to improve job quality for all workers.

The Obama administration can take a major step forward in helping to protect workers, taxpayers, and responsible businesses by employing these five strategies to effectively enforce labor laws. The Obama administration can immediately implement these strate- gies, but doing so will not be easy. It will require strong leadership to change DOL’s culture and make enforcement a priority.

Read the full report (pdf)