Congressman Morgan McGarvey Introduces Bill to Help USDOL Build Its Labor Inspectorate

[The following is a press release from Rep. McGarvey’s office dated December 06, 2023]

Congressman Morgan McGarvey Introduces Bill to Crack Down on Labor Rights Violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 06, 2023) – Today, Congressman Morgan McGarvey (KY-03) introduced the Workers Protecting Our Wage Earners’ Rights Act, or Workers POWER Act, alongside Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, Congressional Labor Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-01), and Rep. Greg Casar (TX-35). The bill will equip the Department of Labor with the resources needed to tackle federal labor law violations including child labor, wage theft, and workplace health and safety violations.

“Everyday working people are the ones who power this country, and they deserve to work with dignity, free from concerns of stolen wages or having their health and safety put at risk,” said Rep. Morgan McGarvey. “This bill creates a better future for our country’s workers by empowering the Department of Labor to crack down on bad actors engaging in conduct ranging from child labor violations to wage theft. I’m proud to lead my colleagues in the fight to prevent our workers from being exploited and will continue working to ensure every worker in our country makes good wages and has safe working conditions.”

The Workers POWER Act grew out of a federal investigation into several Louisville McDonald’s which were found in violation of child labor law and fined $212K by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The investigators uncovered numerous violations, including 305 minors working illegally and two 10-year-old children working as late as 2:00 a.m. Despite the best efforts of the hardworking federal investigators, reports of child labor have continued to make headlines while staffing shortages at the Wage and Hour Division remain pertinent due to underfunding.

This legislation improves the pipeline, capacity, and resources into the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To do so, the legislation seeks to increase the slots in pipeline programs, incentivize recruitment and retention, promote reports on the needs of the Department of Labor to best enforce labor laws, and create a grant program to states to increase labor violations enforcement.

“The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are an essential line of defense against wage theft, abusive child labor, and unsafe workplaces. Regrettably, these agencies and their staff have been left without the resources and support they need to fulfill DOL’s promise to workers. This is particularly dangerous at a time when unscrupulous employers are robbing workers of hard-earned pay and there is a surge in horrific incidents of child labor and workplace injuries and deaths,” said Ranking Member Scott. “The Workers POWER Act would help ensure that WHD and OSHA have access to a strong pipeline of talent and can provide their staff with the support they deserve.  We must invest in the individuals who dedicate themselves to protecting the rights and safety of American workers.”

“No worker should be subjected to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. As a former electrician, I saw many friends and coworkers seriously injured and killed on the job due to dangerous and exploitative working conditions,” said Congressman Norcross, co-chair of the Labor Caucus. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Workers POWER Act to empower the Department of Labor with the tools and resources it needs to enforce federal labor laws, protect workers, and crack down on exploitative labor practices. The health and safety of America’s workers remains one of my top priorities in Congress, and I will continue to work with both sides of the aisle to keep them safe and healthy.”

“Right now, people are being forced to work unsafe and dangerous jobs by some of the biggest corporations across the country,” said Congressman Casar. “We must increase the Department of Labor’s resources to help them tackle the increasing number of labor violations, hold these big corporations accountable, and protect U.S. workers for the long haul.”

“Our labor laws are only meaningful when we adequately fund the agencies that oversee enforcement,” said USW International President David McCall. “The USW commends Rep. McGarvey and his Workers POWER Act, which would finally give the Department of Labor and its state partners the resources they need to protect workers from employers who seek to exploit or endanger them.”

“Working people should not have to compromise when it comes to safety on the job,” William Samuel, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director. “The Workers POWER Act will bolster the Department of Labor’s resources, staffing and enforcement capabilities. This legislation is long overdue and absolutely necessary to prevent unacceptable labor violations like wage theft, child labor, and occupational hazards. We urge legislators to pass this critical bill to create specialized positions and allocate grants to states, all of which are necessary to protect American workers and ensure stronger enforcement of federal labor laws.”

“Labor laws without proper enforcement are as good as the paper they’re written on. The Workers POWER Act will empower workers across the country by giving the Department of Labor the resources it needs to enforce labor law to the fullest extent,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “Labor violations impact workers in every single district of this country while major corporations continue to profit. It is high-time to increase the number of trained investigators that our members need to stay safe from both injuries and substandard employers. We applaud Rep. McGarvey for giving the Department of Labor and its agencies the tools to fight back against widespread labor problems that continue to plague this country, such as wage theft, workplace safety, and violations of child labor laws.”

“SMART members know as well as anyone that rules and regulations designed to protect workers are only effective when they are enforced – and that’s especially true when it comes to labor law,” said SMART General President Michael Coleman. “As child labor law violations skyrocket, and as workers continue to organize in the face of well-documented violations of federal law, it is more crucial than ever that the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has the funding and staffing needed to protect working Americans and their families. SMART strongly supports the Workers POWER Act, and we encourage all pro-worker members of Congress to sign onto this commonsense legislation.”

The Workers POWER Act is endorsed by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Media Voices for Children, National Child Labor Coalition, National Consumers League, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), United Steelworkers (USW).

The bill text can be found HERE.

A section-by-section breakdown of the bill text can be found HERE.