Norton to Introduce Worker Protection Bill at Union Station Press Conference Tomorrow

Jul 28, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will join hundreds of federal contract workers tomorrow in front of Union Station to introduce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act. The ROSIE Act incentivizes, through preferential points awarded in the bidding process, federal government contractors who support workers’ collective bargaining, pay living wages and benefits, stop wage theft, and do not pay CEOs excessive salaries.  Norton will be announcing the ROSIE Act with the organization known as Better Jobs Nation, a federal workers’ rights advocacy group.

“The ROSIE Act is one of the many steps our country can take to increase the living wage,” Norton said.  “Current federal contracting guidelines are written in a way that often rewards bad behavior, in this case, private sector employers paying their workers sub-standard wages.  This bill will help reward the contractors who believe in investing in their workers with better wages and stronger rights for them to be able to live more comfortable lives.”

WHAT:  Press Conference for Low-Wage Contract Workers, Introduction of ROSIE Act
WHO:  Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Low-wage federal contract workers, Sr. Simone Campbell, Members of Congress
WHEN: 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 29th
WHERE:  Columbus Circle, in front of Union Station 

Norton introduced the bill today. Her introductory remarks as follows:

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy Act

July 29, 2014

Ms. Norton.  Mr. Speaker, today, I introduce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act.  Millions of workers are part of the “federally dependent workforce” and hold low-wage jobs with federal contractors.  Seventy percent of these workers are women and 45 percent are people of color.  With so many workers dependent on federal contracts, the federal government has the ability to use its purchasing power to incentivize private-sector firms to create good jobs for American workers, rebuild the middle class, address income inequality, and invigorate the economy by increasing the purchasing power of working Americans.

Under the bill, Congress finds that the disappearance of good jobs, the shrinking of the middle class, and growing income inequality are the greatest domestic challenges confronting our nation.  The federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the nation’s private-sector economy, spending over $1.5 trillion annually at firms that employ a quarter of American workers.  Federal purchasing power is currently creating millions of poverty-level jobs, subsidizing labor-law-breakers, and funding ballooning executive compensation. 

The bill also notes that the federal government is our nation’s leading creator of low-wage jobs in the private sector, funding more than two-million jobs paying under 12 dollars per hour.  The federal government awards taxpayer dollars to a substantial number of firms that violate federal labor, employment and occupational safety laws, and its purchasing subsidizes the excessive salaries of private-sector executives who do business with the American people.  When federal purchasing power is used in such a manner, workers have less to spend on the necessities of life and are forced to rely on public assistance.  Lack of purchasing power hurts job creation and undermines economic growth, ultimately imposing significant costs on American taxpayers. 

Federal purchasing power can and should be used to create good jobs, rebuild the middle class, and curb rising income inequality.  These good jobs would allow workers and their families to live in dignity without relying on public assistance or private charity, and would pay enough to provide for subsistence, healthcare, education, housing and savings, as well as enough disposable income to allow workers to enjoy quality time off with their loved ones.  Federal purchasing power can and should be used to rebuild the middle class.  A strong middle class stimulates the economy by increasing consumer spending and job growth.  Federal purchasing power can and should be used to narrow the growing gulf between the richest one percent of the population and ordinary working families, which is threatening the survival of our participatory democracy.

The bill directs the Secretary of Labor to promulgate regulations implementing Good Jobs Model Employer Standards.  Under these standards, whenever an executive agency awards a contract for the acquisition of supplies or services, it shall not award the contract to a source that is not a Good Jobs Model Employer, unless there is no offer from a source that is a model employer.  An executive agency could not provide other forms of financial or nonfinancial assistance to entities that are not model employers when there is a similarly situated Good Jobs Model Employer that could receive the assistance, unless doing so would substantially undermine the value of the assistance to the public.  These provisions do not apply to direct federal statutory requirements, mandatory awards, direct awards to foreign governments or public international organizations, benefits to an individual as a personal entitlement, or federal employment.

The bill defines a Good Jobs Model Employer as an employer that meets the following standards: (1) respects employees’ rights to bargain collectively with their employers without being forced to take strike action to win better wages and working conditions; (2) offers to each employee living wages, decent benefits including, health care, paid leave for sickness and caregiving, and fair work schedules that are predictable and stable; (3) affirmatively demonstrates an exemplary standard of compliance with workplace protection laws, including laws governing labor relations, wages and hours and health and safety, as well as other applicable labor laws; (4) limits executive compensation to fifty times the median salary paid to the company’s workers; (5) employs a workforce not less than 35% of which reside within one or more Historically Underutilized Business Zones; and (6) subcontracts only with other Good Jobs Model Employers.

This bill is just one step in lifting millions of Americans out of poverty and into the middle class.  These contracting requirements will incentivize, rather than penalize, employers to raise their workplace standards to retain much sought-after federal contracts.  They will also provide savings to the federal government by lowering the cost of the federal safety net because fewer workers will be reliant on federal benefits.  With these standards, Demos has estimated an annual benefit savings of approximately $3.3 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $3.1 billion for Medicaid, and $2.5 billion for the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Ultimately, the ROSIE Act will uplift our workers and benefit our entire country.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.