5. Comply with existing workplace laws
All companies receiving federal infrastructure funds should be required to report their record of workplace violations. Numerous government studies have found that government contractors face few consequences when they break federal workplace laws designed to ensure that workers are paid what they are owed, are safe on the job, and do not face discrimination. For example, a 2017 Senate report found that two-thirds of the government’s 100 largest contractors have been caught breaking workplace wage and safety laws.24
Although President Obama took action to ensure that companies complied with health and safety standards, wage laws, and anti-discrimination protections before they received federal contracts, President Trump signed legislation rolling back these protections. Lawmakers should require contractors with long records of serious and repeated workplace law violations to come into compliance before they are able to receive any federal funding.25
In addition, policymakers can ensure that protections are enforced by monitoring recipients—particularly those in industries with high rates of violations and corporations with poor compliance records—as was previously done to monitor fraud, waste, and abuse among federal recipients of economic stimulus funds during the Great Recession.26 Congress should also empower workers to stand up for their rights by permitting them to take action on their own, or even on behalf of the government, against companies that violate their rights and by providing grants to community and worker organizations to engage in outreach to workers and employers.
6. Create jobs in the United States
All assistance to recipients of infrastructure funds should be covered by strong domestic content standards. Laws designed to ensure that the federal government purchases American-made products and that federally supported infrastructure projects use American-made inputs are too often poorly enforced and cover only a limited number of spending programs as well as a limited number of end products.27 For example, the U.S. government opens a far greater share of its procurement market to foreign goods than do its five largest foreign trade partners covered under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement combined—the European Union, Japan, Canada, South Korea, and Norway.28