Washington, D.C. — Contract workers are essential to keeping America’s federal government running. They perform essential tasks, from working on the COVID-19 response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to building roads and bridges nationwide.
Yet too many of America’s millions of federal contract workers are paid poverty wages and have little power to speak out against unfair, unsafe, and discriminatory work conditions. Because the government is often the largest buyer in a marketplace, it has the potential to shape labor market practices, depress wages, and erode standards, so the labor standards it sets have ramifications far beyond the contractors it employs.
A new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund examines four areas in which the Biden administration can use its administrative and executive powers to raise standards for federal contract workers and provide good value to taxpayers by implementing reforms to modernize and strengthen the enforcement of existing protections for these workers and ensure workers have a voice to correct unfair and illegal practices.
The four areas the report identifies where the Biden administration can take action include:
- Mandating that federal contract workers earn a fair wage and ensuring they receive good benefits
- Enacting protections to shield federal contract workers from discrimination, harassment, and racism
- Updating the contract bid review process to prevent unrealistic, low-ball bids that undercut labor standards
- Reasserting the government’s role in enforcing strong standards by closing legal loopholes and rescinding Trump-era rollbacks that allow contractors to undermine worksite stability and workers’ collective bargaining rights
“As America recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, many Americans will be desperate for income and willing to accept jobs from employers that are willing to break labor laws or pay below-market wages, so ensuring strong labor standards is crucial to creating a sustainable, equitable recovery,” said Karla Walter, senior director of the American Worker Project at CAP Action and author of the report. “The Biden administration has an opportunity to raise standards for millions of workers and ensure taxpayers receive a good value for their investment, by using its administrative and executive powers to raise labor standards for federal contractors.”
Read: “Federal Contracting Doesn’t Go Far Enough To Protect American Workers” by Karla Walter
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