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Republicans Ax Worker Protections Against Wage Theft

Nicole Knight

“By repealing these protections, Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans let contractors with even the worst track records off the hook–a punch in the gut to workers, taxpayers, and law-abiding businesses," said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project

An Obama-era rule requiring federal contractors to disclose violations of worker safety and wage laws when bidding on contracts is the latest casualty of the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump signed a joint resolution Monday nullifying the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. Issued by the Obama administration in 2014, the rule was designed to safeguard workers by making sure federal contracts didn’t go to companies that habitually violate labor laws by unlawfully failing to pay overtime and minimum wages, denying lunch breaks, or forcing employees to work off the clock.

Targeting worker protections, or “job killing rules,” as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer characterized them, is a recurring theme in the Trump administration, which has demonstrated it favors corporate interests over worker protections.

The wage and safety rule is one of more than a dozen Obama-era regulations the administration has moved swiftly to dismantle, as the Huffington Post reported.

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The Trump administration and congressional Republicans rolled back the Obama-era regulation after business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, complained in a letter to Congress last month that the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule “tie[s] up law-abiding employers in red tape,” amounting to “blacklisting” for certain contractors.

Labor advocates and Democrats said Trump is ignoring the need for safe and fair workplaces by siding with corporations.

“By repealing these protections, Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans let contractors with even the worst track records off the hook–a punch in the gut to workers, taxpayers, and law-abiding businesses,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, in a statement.

A report released this month by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) examined federal contractors’ compliance with labor laws and found a “significant” record of abuses, including dozens of worker deaths in companies that took shortcuts with health and safety standards.

More than 300,000 workers employed by federal contractors in the past decade have been subject to wage theft, the report notes. Nearly one-quarter of the U.S. workforce is employed by a federal contractor or subcontractor.

“Instead of making it easier for companies to cheat their employees or threaten workers’ health and safety, President Trump and Republicans in Congress should join Democrats in standing up for the hardworking Americans who do important jobs for our country,” Warren said in a statement announcing the report’s release.

A U.S. Department of Labor study of workers in California and New York found that women and people of color are more frequently subjected to wage theft than men and white people.

Congressional Republicans are aiming to scrap a workplace safety regulation requiring large employers to maintain a five-year record of on-the-job injuries. The president has not yet signed that rule’s repeal, as the Huffington Post reported.

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