The White House Will Require Agency Labor Advisors to Oversee Federal Contractors
Following through on a recommendation from a White House task force on empowering workers, administration officials said the 24 largest agencies must designate labor advisors, and strongly encouraged smaller agencies to do the same.
The Biden administration will require large federal agencies to designate employees to serve as their labor advisors and oversee federal contractors’ compliance with federal labor and employment laws.
Labor advisors at federal agencies are career officials who help agency employees and federal contractors follow federal contract, employment and labor laws and liaise with enforcement agencies like the Labor Department. But although federal regulations covering government contracting often stipulate that tasks should be performed by an agency’s labor advisor, there is no requirement that agencies designate an employee to serve in that role, and many operate without one.
In a memo issued last week, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh changed that, requiring all of the 24 agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act to designate a labor advisor by Feb. 15. They strongly encouraged other agencies to follow suit. The initiative was first recommended last year by the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment.
“Some, but not all, agencies have designated one or more persons as agency labor advisors,” the task force wrote last year. “Federal regulations describe agency labor advisors as individuals who advise contracting agency officials on federal contract labor issues. If more agencies designated labor advisors, and with greater coordination and training, the labor advisors could be a valuable resource to their agencies on administration and enforcement of existing labor standards and on various new labor-related requirements.”
In addition, OMB and the Labor Department announced in their memo last week that Labor will provide training and technical assistance to any newly designated labor advisor, as well as ongoing training “as needed.”
“Labor advisors can promote federal workforce understanding of longstanding labor laws, such as the Service Contract Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, and nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements,” Young and Walsh wrote. “They can also support successful implementation of requirements that have been newly issued, enhanced or refreshed, such as those addressing an increased minimum wage for federal contract workers, non-displacement of service contract workers and the mandatory use of project labor agreements.”
Agency labor advisors will “promote greater awareness” of labor law requirements among their agency’s acquisition workforce, develop training on labor law in conjunction with the Labor Department, as well as liaise between enforcement agencies like the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agency officials.
And they will serve as a point person to ensure agencies and their contractors comply with the Biden administration’s pro-labor policies.
“[Labor advisors should] facilitate understanding and appropriate use of contract labor practices endorsed or reinforced by the [worker empowerment] task force, including proper classification of contractor employees subject to the [Fair Labor Standards Act], non-interference with worker organizing efforts, the use of project labor agreements to avoid labor disruptions on large-scale construction projects, and the exploration of labor peace agreements, where there is cause to believe that there is a possibility of work stoppages on a project acquisition because of organizing activity among unrepresented employees,” the memo stated.
The White House also announced that the Labor Department and OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy will work together to establish the Contract Labor Advisory Group, an interagency working group of labor advisors and federal acquisition employees to support their efforts to better manage federal contractors’ compliance with employment law.