Bipartisan Senate Bill Aims to Help Close Buy American Loopholes

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation this week to make sure waivers to Buy American laws are not overused.

Buy American gives preference to American-made goods during the federal government procurement process. For example, if the construction of a bridge is being funded by federal tax dollars, Buy American ensures it is built with American-made iron and steel.

These preferences are popular among the public and enjoy widespread bipartisan support, and for good reason. It makes sense to reinvest our tax dollars in the local economy; it makes no sense to send that money overseas when American workers are ready to do the same job at a competitive price.

Sometimes there are instances when a federal agency can use a waiver to buy goods from overseas, such as when an American-made product is unavailable or if there is a significant cost difference. Unfortunately, however, federal agencies often overuse waivers, and there’s currently no centralized system to track what’s going down.

As a result, federal agencies spent $47.7 billion on foreign-made goods over the past five years, according to the Senators introducing the bill. The Defense Department alone has spent $200 billion on foreign-made products since 2007.

That’s what the BuyAmerican.gov Act aims to address. The legislation would create a centralized, publicly available website to track and display any requested waivers to Buy American laws. In doing so, this would allow U.S. manufacturers and others to identify available federal contract opportunities — and hold accountable those agencies and officials who are abusing the waiver system.

Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) are sponsoring the legislation alongside Republican Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.). Murphy originally suggested the idea of the website to President Trump in a letter he sent last year that outlined ways to close Buy American loopholes.

The new bill also codifies Trump’s executive order on Buy American and requires federal agencies to report on the implementation (and compliance with) Buy American preferences.

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we think the proposed website is a great idea. Buy American preferences go a long way in supporting American jobs and the local economy, and we should always look for ways to make sure that these laws are being properly implemented and not abused.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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A Friendly Reminder

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