February 19, 1997 in Nation/World

U.S. To Punish Firms That Break Labor Laws Companies That Violate Rules May Not Get Federal Contracts

New York Times
 

Vice President Al Gore told AFL-CIO leaders on Tuesday the Clinton administration would soon issue regulations imposing restrictions on federal contracts to companies that violate laws on occupational safety, overtime and union organizing.

The labor movement has pushed for years for restrictions to punish companies that flout laws protecting workers. But it was only after the AFL-CIO last year undertook its largest campaign ever to elect Democrats that Gore announced the new procurement rules.

Under the administration’s new policy, made public by the vice president at the federation’s four-day meeting here, companies’ adherence to labor laws is to be taken into account for the first time in the awarding of federal contracts, and those that have violated such laws could be barred from receiving them.

“We’re going to send a message to companies that want to do business with the federal government: how you treat employees and how you treat unions counts with us,” said Gore, standing with the federation’s president, John Sweeney, at a news conference.

Gore announced the new policy on a day when he and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the House Democratic leader, appeared before the federation’s executive council in what was widely viewed as a beauty contest between two future presidential candidates vying for labor’s dollars and endorsement.

The administration’s tougher rules for federal contractors are to be spelled out in procurement regulations that it will soon propose. After that, companies, unions and the public as a whole will have 60 days to respond to the proposal before any final adoption.

Under current practice, federal contractors are generally reimbursed for all costs incurred in fulfilling the contract.

But Gore said on Tuesday that as a part of the administration’s new plan, contractors would no longer be able to have the government reimburse them for money they spend fighting unionization drives.

Similarly, they would not be reimbursed for money they spend fighting suits brought by federal agencies charging them with labor law violations.

“The right to organize and the right to strike,” Gore said, “are fundamental rights, and nobody’s tax dollars should be spent undermining those rights.”


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