Six days after taking the oath of office, President Trump announced “the hour of justice for the American worker has arrived.”
“It’s time to restore the civil rights of Americans to protect their jobs, their hopes, and their dreams for a much better future,” Trump told congressional Republicans at their annual retreat.
Congressional Republicans applauded Trump’s sentiment — and, shortly thereafter, voted to allow companies that routinely violate their workers’ rights to receive federal contracts again. On Monday, Trump signed that measure into law.
Specifically, Republicans voted to repeal the Obama administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. That rule discouraged the General Services Administration from awarding federal contracts to companies with a history of stealing their employees’ wages, violating workplace safety standards, and/or illegally discriminating in hiring or pay. The order also required contractors to provide their employees with “the necessary information each pay period to make sure they are getting paid what they are owed.”
Now, companies will once again be free to underpay their workers, or evade safety regulations without fear of losing access to Uncle Sam’s deep pockets.
Republicans struck down the rule by deploying the Congressional Review Act (CRA) — a law that gives Congress the power to fast-track the reversal of regulations. Before Trump took office, the CRA had only been used to strike down one federal regulation in its 21-year history. Congress has, historically, been reluctant to use the CRA because regulations overturned through the law can never be reinstated by the executive branch, barring the approval of Congress.
On Monday, Trump struck down three other Obama-era regulations via the CRA. One gave the federal government more discretion in land-use decisions (a move despised by the energy industry), while two others were concerned with ensuring the quality of teacher-training programs and the enforcement of public-school performance standards. Trump and the GOP have now permanently eliminated seven Obama-era rules using the CRA.
While the president’s gift to labor-law violators may be out of step with his populist rhetoric, it’s perfectly consistent with his pledge to run the country like a business. After all, the idea that you don’t really need to pay workers what they’re owed has long been a core tenet of Trump’s corporate philosophy.