Mitchell visits White House for labor bill signing

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau
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Washington — President Donald Trump on Monday signed legislation co-sponsored by freshman Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, that reverses an Obama-era rule to block some businesses involved in labor disputes from securing federal contracts.

In his first visit to the White House, Mitchell joined Trump and other lawmakers in the Roosevelt Room Monday afternoon for the bill.

Supporters of the bill, including lead sponsor GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, who chairs the Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the rule would have violated due-process rights because it required companies bidding on contracts to publicly disclose past violations of workplace or labor law or pending complaints — even if the allegations had not been adjudicated.

“The ‘blacklisting’ rule created a whole new regimen for reporting and managing federal contracts, in that contractors could be barred from federal contracts solely based on an allegation of a violation,” Mitchell said after the signing.

“That means even the threat of action by a union could result in people losing their contracts, adversely affecting jobs and the ability of government to function.”

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, signed by President Barack Obama in July 2014, aimed to “increase efficiency and cost savings in the work performed by parties who contract with the federal government by ensuring that they understand and comply with labor laws.”

“Federal contracts should deliver value for taxpayers in a way that is consistent with our nation’s values,” then-Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said last year when his department issued the final regulations.

“Contractors that illegally cut corners at the expense of their workers should not benefit from taxpayer-funded federal contracts. At the same time, employers who meet their legal responsibilities should not have to compete with those who do not.”

A 2010 Government Accountability Office report found the federal government has awarded contracts to companies that had been cited for violating wage regulations and health and safety regulations.

But Mitchell said the federal government’s system for suspending or debarring contractors has worked well and “adding a whole other layer on top of that, in my opinion, is excessive.”

The rule was to take effect last fall, but a federal judge in Texas in October blocked most of it in a ruling.

The House and Senate passed a joint resolution to roll back the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations implemented during the last days of the prior administration.

After the signing, Trump praised the resolution among others that he signed, tweeting, “I'll keep working with Congress, agencies and the American people until we eliminate every unnecessary, job-killing regulation we can find!”

Mitchell said it was “pretty awesome” that his first trip to the White House was to witness the president sign a bill he worked on.

“From co-sponsoring the bill, to being an integral part of the floor management to actually being there when the president signed it is an incredible honor, and one I will remember my entire life,” he said.

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