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Congressional Republicans vote to protect wage thieves

WA-GOP-delegationWASHINGTON, D.C. (June 4, 2014) –Washington’s Republican Congressional delegation voted last week to continue awarding federal contracts to unscrupulous employers that deny workers their legally earned pay.

Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Doc Hastings, Dave Reichert and Cathy McMorris Rodgers all voted against a measure that would have discouraged the government from giving contracts to companies that have committed wage theft. The amendment to an appropriations bill was defeated on a 196-211 vote with all Democrats and 10 Republicans voting “yes.”

The measure would have disqualified certain federal contracts to any corporation that committed wage theft or had other wage violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The idea was to ensure public dollars don’t go to companies that have documented histories of denying workers their rightfully earned pay.

“The federal government could lead the way by disqualifying contractors who practice wage theft, but House Republicans voted tonight against an amendment to do exactly that,” wrote Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in a joint statement released after last Friday’s vote. They added:

The failure of this amendment illustrates who Republicans defend. Speaker Boehner refuses to allow a vote to raise the federal minimum wage or renew unemployment insurance. House Republicans have focused relentlessly on taking away affordable health care and investigating Benghazi because they believe that is how they will win November. Unfortunately, working families have been left out of the Republican political strategy.

A recent National Employment Law Project (NELP) survey found that 21 percent of federal contract workers surveyed were not paid overtime and 11% have been forced to work “off the clock.” The NELP survey found that an increasing number of private-sector federal contractors face a broad range of negative workplace practices, and concluded:

The common-sense principle that the federal government should not be in the business of subsidizing poverty-level wages is no longer observed in practice. Instead, low-bid federal contracting and exemptions to the Service Contract Act and Public Contracts Act mean that hundreds of thousands of workers paid by the federal government via contractors or similar arrangements work for sub-standard wages in poor conditions, driving down the wages of those in similar jobs beyond the scope of government contracts.

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