Attacking Protections for American Workers


December 7, 2015

construction worker
American workers are the backbone of our economy; they keep our country and our society running. Yet some members of Congress want to chip away at federal rules that protect hard-working Americans.

If you saw our posts from last week, you likely noticed we’re focusing a lot lately on the FY16 omnibus spending package Congress needs to enact this week, and specifically on the harmful policy changes known as riders that some members of Congress want to attach to the package. Today we’re looking at riders that would attack protections for American workers.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency that prevents and remedies unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions. It also safeguards employees’ rights to organize and form a union. But the NLRB and the protections it provides are under attack. Proposals being considered could block the Board’s efforts to both 1) ensure workers can negotiate with companies that control their wages and working conditions and 2) modernize and streamline union elections.

Another proposed rider could prohibit the Department of Labor from implementing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which requires companies looking to do business with the federal government to disclose their labor violations and gives agencies guidance on how to use this information when awarding federal contracts. Blocking this executive order would prevent the administration from cracking down on contractors that violate wage, hour, overtime and other labor laws. Low-wage seasonal workers hired under federal contracts could also be deprived minimum wage and overtime protections if some in Congress have their way. Yet another proposal could block the Labor Department from ensuring that workers receive financial advice on their retirement savings that’s in their own best interest, instead of the best interest of financial planners who give the advice.

Despite gains made by the bipartisan budget deal Congress passed in November, the Department of Labor (along with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education) will reportedly be woefully underfunded in a final spending package. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the crucial programs in these three agencies represent almost one-third of non-defense appropriations but would get less than one-sixth of the available increase from the Bipartisan Budget Act (the three agencies are looking at getting $5.2 billion over FY15 levels, but should be getting closer to $10 billion above FY15 levels). This is painful enough, especially because of the critical work these three agencies do for low-income Americans and because of the years of cuts these agencies have already faced. But the damaging riders on top of the too-low funding levels will do even more to hurt American workers.

Take a stand. Help protect hard-working Americans from businesses that don’t play by the rules and don’t treat their employees fairly. Tell your members of Congress to pass a clean spending bill without riders that will hurt workers. Click here to send your representatives an email, tweet at them, and/or write on their Facebook pages. Then share this alert via Facebook and Twitter.

There’s no time to waste – please contact your members of Congress today.

[Photo credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr]

Budget and Appropriations
Labor and Employment