Reporter's Guide: Federal Contractors with History of OSHA Violations Battle New Safety Rules

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

by Mary Bottari and Jessica Mason

Every day, American workers are killed and injured on the job. From explosions, electrocutions, and toxic fumes to more common falls or crushing injuries, lives are altered and families irreparably torn apart.

For too long, many corporations have taken a cavalier attitude to worker safety, but when these corporations are federal contractors paid by U.S. taxpayers, the public demands a special level of accountability.

That is why President Obama issued the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order (EO) in 2014. The order requires federal contractors to report their safety record to the federal government as a condition for receiving federal contracts. It is a good first step toward holding repeat, serious violators to account and protects more than 26 million workers or 1 in 5 in the workforce.

But some of these federal contractors are pulling out the stops, urging the Obama administration to withdraw new rules providing worker protections and using little-known trade organizations to do the dirty work for them.

Companies Use Little-Known Trade Associations to Lobby Against Accountability

Federal contractors are pushing back hard on the EO, with two trade associations leading the charge: the Professional Services Council (PSC) and the HR Policy Association (HRPA).

The PSC, with 370 member companies, calls itself "the leading advocate and resource for the federal professional and technical services industry." The HRPA represents more than 360 corporations in the U.S., many of them federal contractors, and describes itself as "the lead public policy organization of chief human resource officers."

Both associations have taken strong stands in the media, congressional testimony, and lobbying asserting that the EO is unnecessary because, according to the PSC, there is "no evidence of a widespread problem of pervasive, repeated or willful violations of labor laws by federal contractors." In HRPA's words, "The Order simply seeks to solve a problem that does not exist."

The PSC concedes that there are "instances" where contractors have violated labor laws, and some of these "may well have been intentional." But "the laws involved are so complex and challenging to execute that many companies, sometimes at the direction of the government itself, take actions that result in honest mistakes." These "honest, administrative errors," the PSC asserts, "make up the vast bulk of ‘violations.'" And existing accountability mechanisms are more than sufficient to deal with cases where there has been "nefarious intent."

Yet a closer look at the companies whose senior executives sit on PSC's and HRPA's Boards of Directors undermines these assertions. By CMD's count, at least ten firms (or their subsidiaries) whose officials sit on these boards have histories of labor law violations which would be reportable under the EO, including numerous violations that occurred even after the order was signed in July 2014.

Read the full article from PR Watch.