Congress Moving to Repeal 'Blacklisting' Rules

Based on an executive order signed by President Obama in July 2014, the regulations spelled out how federal contractors were to disclose violations of the OSH Act and 13 other labor laws. It prompted a rare alliance: AGC and ABC both sought to repeal it.

Federal workplace regulations that were contentious from day one and required federal contractors to disclose violations of the OSH Act and 13 other labor laws, now appear to be headed for repeal. Implementing President Obama's 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order (Executive Order 13673), which has been called the "blacklisting rule" by opponents, the regulations were published in August 2016 and scheduled to take effect Oct. 25, 2016, but a federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction against implementing the executive order.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 236-187 on Feb. 2 to repeal the regulations, using the Congressional Review Act that is used to repeal recent federal regulations and prevent issuance of substantially similar regulations. (CRA was used early in the presidency of George W. Bush to repeal OSHA's ergonomics standard.) U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, released a statement saying the "“flawed and unnecessary blacklisting rule has always been a solution in search of a problem. As we've said repeatedly, the best way to ensure fair pay and safe workplaces is to enforce the existing suspension and debarment system. This rule would make that system simply unworkable, which would hurt workers, taxpayers, small businesses, and our Armed Forces. Congress has a responsibility to put a stop to misguided rules, and today's vote is an important step. Let's reject this flawed rule and encourage the new administration to use the tools it already has to protect workers and hold contractors accountable."

The regulations prompted a rare alliance of Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), both of which sought to repeal it. ABC alerted its members that a U.S. Senate resolution (S.J. Res. 12) against the regulations could be voted on as early as next week. It was introduced Jan. 30 by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and 10 other senators. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate labor committee, has opposed the regulations from the start.

"These regulations will bury federal contractors and subcontractors under mountains of paperwork and then prevent some from getting work for a labor violation they didn't commit," he said in August 2016. "Current law is already clear that when federal contractors violate labor laws, they will be punished. Instead of rolling out more federal regulations that put a drag on productivity and our economy, the administration should instead focus on ways to enable workplace innovation and job creation. Meanwhile, Congress will work to send our defense authorization bill to the president's desk to exempt defense contracts from these regulations so that the men and women working to ensure our national security are not bogged down in needless red tape."

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