Unions Mull Next Step After Contractor 'Blacklisting' Rule Is Revoked
By Tom Ichniowski
Organized labor is weighing its next move after the Bush administration cancelled a Clinton administration rule that barred firms from federal contracts if they had recently violated labor, environmental or other laws.
The decision to cancel the rule was published in the Dec. 27 "Federal Register" by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council—the FAR Council—which is composed of the Dept. of Defense, General Services Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Labor unions had pushed for the contractor sanctions contained in Clinton rule, which was published on Dec. 20, 2000, and took effect Jan. 19, 2001. But on April 3, after the Bush administration took office, the FAR Council published a stay of the regulation.
The AFL-CIO called the Bush administration action "an outrage." It issued a Dec. 27 statement saying the Clinton regulations "were based on the simple, common sense proposition that the government should take a company's track record of complying with the law into account before giving that company a federal contract worth millions of dollars."
David Ruffin, an AFL-CIO spokesman, said in a Jan. 2 interview, "We are evaluating what our next steps are."
The Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups had blasted the Clinton regulation, which they dubbed a "blacklisting" rule. The rule's official title referred to "contractor responsibility." AGC, ABC and the Chamber had filed suit to block the regulation.
Business organizations hailed the Bush administration action. ABC President and CEO Kirk Pickerel says the Clinton rule was "a parting gift to the labor unions," and contended it "clearly invited abuse from disgruntled employees, labor unions, competitors and others."
Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of AGC, says, "Federal contractors can breathe a sigh of relief." AGC contended that the Clinton rule would have constituted an end-run around the legislative process by adding new penalties to federal statutes.