(Extensions of Remarks - July 12, 2019)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E913]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                               speech of

                       HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, July 11, 2019

       The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of 
     the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 2500) to 
     authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2020 for military 
     activities of the Department of Defense and for military 
     construction, to prescribe military personnel strengths for 
     such fiscal year, and for other purposes:

  Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Chair, for over 25 years, I have made 
multiple oral and written requests to federal contracting authorities 
including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain why our 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 brought labor leaders including Mike Maloney--
Business Manager for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9, Mike Ricca--
Business Agent of IBEW Local 400, and others to meet with the Corps of 
Engineers regarding contracting processes that make it near impossible 
for union members to get work on the base.
  I--we--raised deep concerns that nonunion contractors may purposely 
be misclassifying workers in order to low bid, which if true could be a 
serious violation of federal law and contrary to Davis Bacon.
  We are concerned that irresponsible contractors and subcontractors 
may be engaging in two different types of misclassification: craft 
misclassification and independent contractor misclassification. Craft 
misclassification occurs when dishonest contractors misclassify high-
skilled workers as general laborers or lower wage classifications in 
order to avoid paying the higher prevailing wage rate applicable to the 
high-skilled work actually performed. Independent contractor 
misclassification occurs when contractors misclassify employees as 
independent contractors to avoid paying prevailing wages in order to 
reduce labor costs and avoid state and federal taxes.
  Today, I am offering an amendment, joined by my good friend and 
colleague Donald Norcross, to task the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to investigate the contracting practices of the Corps of 
Engineers, with a specific focus on how the Corps complies with and 
enforces the requirement to pay prevailing wages on federally financed 
construction jobs, and its probe will include:
  Any programs or protocols the Corps of Engineers has in place for the 
purpose of carrying out its Davis-Bacon Act enforcement obligations as 
set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulation.
  Any programs or protocols the Corps of Engineers has in place for the 
purpose of identifying and addressing independent contractor 
misclassification on projects subject to the Davis-Bacon Act.
  The frequency with which the Corps of Engineers conducts site visits 
on each covered project to monitor Davis-Bacon Act compliance.
  The frequency with which the Corps of Engineers monitors certified 
payroll reports submitted by contractors and subcontractors on each 
covered project.
  Whether the Corps of Engineers accepts and investigates complaints of 
Davis-Bacon Act violations submitted by third parties, such as 
contractors and workers' rights organizations.
  Whether the Corps of Engineers maintains a database listing all 
contractors and subcontractors who have, in one way or another, 
violated the Davis-Bacon Act and whether the Corps consults this 
database as part of its contract award process.
  The frequency, over the last five years, with which the Corps of 
Engineers penalized, disqualified, terminated, or moved for debarment 
of a contractor for Davis-Bacon violations.
  How the Corps of Engineers verifies that the contractors it hires for 
its projects are properly licensed.
  This amendment will require the Comptroller General of the United 
States to submit a report to Congress summarizing the results of their 
findings, in addition to any recommendations for legislative or 
regulatory action that would improve the efforts of enforcing the 
requirement to pay prevailing wages on federally financed construction 
  Our military installations deserve quality workmanship, not 
substandard facilities that could create potential hazards and diminish 
  The bill, to which I am adding this amendment, authorizes $11.5 
billion for military construction projects for fiscal year 2020. Madam 
Chair, we need to ensure that taxpayer dollars--and critical investment 
in military infrastructure--are being spent in accordance with the law, 
including Davis Bacon.