Smith Speaks at NJ State Association of Pipe Trades Convention in Atlantic City
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) addressed leaders and members of the New Jersey State Association of Pipe Trades at the opening day of the association's 2019 convention today in Atlantic City. He was introduced by NJSAPT President Michael Maloney and received a warm welcome by the more than 100 attendees. The following are excerpts of his remarks:
No one works harder or more effectively for Local 9—and for all the journeymen and apprentices throughout the state—than Mike.
For me, the cause of working families—and the critical importance of unions in the never-ending fight for fair wages and benefits, workplace protections and other important terms of employment achieved through collective bargaining—is a core conviction.
My father was a teamster and instilled in me the strong belief that without unions working families would be marginalized, divided and exploited.
Unions even the playing field and make both the workplace and America itself more just and fairer
In March, the House passed legislation authored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro which I co-sponsored—the Paycheck Fairness Act—which is designed to provide aid to victims of wage discrimination based on sex; to enhance civil penalties for those who violate equal pay provisions for women; and to combat retaliation.
As the economy grows and more jobs are created and retained, the fruits of that expansion must be better pay and benefits.
Paid family leave is both humane and right.
Like you I am concerned that workplace injury and death are rising including a spike in violence against women. At a minimum, we need more OSHA inspectors.
As you know, I strongly support Davis-Bacon; project labor agreements and best value contracting.
For over 25 years, I’ve repeatedly asked federal contracting authorities including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain why labor unions have been systematically excluded from contract awards—especially at military installations like the Joint Base in New Jersey.
Over the years, everyone we’ve met in meeting after meeting on the federal side have always been polite and courteous, but the bottom line—the highly trained unionized women and men don’t get the jobs.
Most recently, I, Mike Maloney and others met for hours at the Jacob Javits Center in New York with the top brass from the Army Corps of Engineers—the decision makers for who gets the contracts at Joint Base NJ and other federal projects.
We raised serious concerns that some nonunion contractors appear to be purposely misclassifying workers in order to low bid, which if true would be a serious violation of federal law and contrary to Davis Bacon.
We pressed best value contracting and deep concern that deceitful contractors and subcontractors may be engaging in two types of misclassification:
· craft misclassification which as you know is the misclassification of higher-skilled workers as general laborers or lower wage classifications in order to avoid paying the higher prevailing wage;
· and Independent contractor misclassification, the deceitful practice some independent contractors use to both avoid paying prevailing wage and state and federal taxes.
The House-passed Smith-Norcross amendment—which is now under review by the Senate—requires the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the contracting practices of the Army Corps of Engineers, with a specific focus on how the Corps complies with and enforces Davis-Bacon on federally financed construction jobs like the Joint Base.
If a company is found to violate Davis-Bacon, are they ever disbarred?
The House-passed Smith-Norcross amendment not only requires the watchdog agency GAO to investigate issues like misclassification and then report its findings to Congress, but tasks GAO to make recommendations for legislative and/or regulatory action.
In recent days, there is some evidence that our appeal for fairness in contracting may be getting through as it seems clear that some of the work on the multimillion dollar two-bay hanger for the KC-46A tanker refueling jets will likely be awarded to union labor.
This is a start. The good news is that we have some indicators that they heard us and we’re going to continue pressing on.