Senators Want to Create a New Website to Help U.S. Manufacturers Win Federal Contracts

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Digital Media Manager, AAM

bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation on Thursday to create a new website to help American manufacturers land more federal contracts — and reduce the number of Buy American waivers given to federal agencies.

Approximately $34 billion in taxpayer dollars were paid to foreign manufacturers in the last five years. Under existing Buy American laws, federal projects like bridge building must utilize domestically manufactured goods and materials like steel, as long they are available and reasonably priced. But agencies have used waivers to get around Buy American, and domestic manufacturers are clearly losing out on substantial opportunities.

The new legislation aims to shine a light on the process and ensure federal agencies abide by Buy American by creating BuyAmerican.gov, a central, publicly available website that will collect and display information about each requested Buy American waiver. Manufacturers and others would then be able to identify contract opportunities, and federal agencies can be held accountable for abusing the waiver process.

“We must do everything we can to protect and maximize American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that our tax dollars aren’t used to create jobs overseas,” said Sen. Rob Portman, (R-Ohio), who introduced the bill alongside Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). 

“Our bill would go a much-needed step further,” said Murphy. “It would strengthen and provide transparency of our Buy American laws, which I’ve been working on since I came to Congress, and provide opportunities for U.S. manufacturers to compete to boost our economy and help secure the national security supply chain.”

Buy American waivers have consequences far beyond lost income for individual companies. Domestic manufacturers have faced significant challenges in recent years, and federal contracts can play a crucial role in preserving manufacturers, particularly those who are critical to our national security, as well as sustaining the communities and families that depend on these manufacturing jobs.

And it just doesn't make sense to send tax dollars overseas when American workers and companies are ready to do the job here at a reasonable price.

"Taxpayer dollars should support American-made products, and our federal agencies should lead the way in promoting U.S. jobs and products," Brown said. "American workers are the best at what they do, and our federal agencies should always look to them first when awarding government contracts." 

Buy American has strong backing from the public as well. Recent polling found that 80% of likely voters support these laws, and 76% were in favor of the creation of a public website that discloses any time that government agencies or contractors try to get around Buy American laws and use foreign goods.

Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Mike Bost (R-Ill.) are jointly reintroducing companion legislation in the House.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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