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By Ben Penn
July 25 — Nearly half of the Democratic House caucus asked defense authorization conferees to remove “harmful language” narrowing the application of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order.
“As the conference negotiations begin with your Senate counterparts, we urge you to remove the damaging and destructive restrictions placed on this critical initiative that is designed to protect millions of hardworking Americans,” the Democrats wrote. The letter, which was distributed to National Defense Authorization Act conferees July 25, is signed by 80 Democratic members.
The House and Senate versions of the NDAA contain different but similarly intentioned Republican-backed provisions that generally prohibit the order's applicability to defense contractors. DOD awards the majority of all government contracts.
The executive order (E.O. 13,673) requires businesses seeking government contracts worth more than $500,000 to disclose violations of 14 federal labor and employment laws—and state-law counterparts—for the previous three years.
The House Democrats' effort follows a similar Senate letter with 34 Democratic signatories. Combined, the message is an attempt to influence conferees' staffers as they draft an NDAA conference report.
“If these dangerous provision remain in the conference bill, we will be doing American workers an injustice,” the Democrats wrote. “Each year, thousands of federal contract workers are deprived of overtime wages, denied basic workplace protections, forced to endure illegal discrimination, and subjected to unwarranted health and safety risks.”
However, advocates on both sides of the issue expect the conference report won't yield a resolution. It's more likely that members from both chambers appointed as NDAA conferees will need to debate the executive order provision when Congress reconvenes in September.
The order, signed by President Barack Obama in 2014, has faced stiff opposition from GOP lawmakers and the business community. They refer to it as the “blacklisting” order and argue it places unnecessary burdens on the federal procurement process.
Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) led the signature collection. They serve as ranking members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and Oversight and Government Reform Committee, respectively, and are both appointed as NDAA conferees.
The letter's distribution began on July 22 and continued through July 25, a spokesperson for Education and the Workforce Committee Democrats told Bloomberg BNA. Democrats are sending the letter to all House conferees and some Senate conferees.
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Text of the letter is available at http://src.bna.com/g5Y.
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