The bill before us will take a small yet important step toward greater efficiency in federal construction contracting. For more than eighty years, federal contractors have been required to pay workers the "locally prevailing wage.' Additionally, since 1961 those same workers have been entitled to one and a half times their basic rate of pay for every hour worked that exceeds 40 hours per week.
While the Department of Labor is obligated to enforce these laws, the Government Accountability Office has long been responsible for processing claims of workers being denied their appropriate wages. If a Labor Department investigation determines a contractor has not paid the appropriate wage, the names of affected employees are sent to the GAO by the department. The GAO then ensures underpaid workers receive the compensation they are due.
The GAO's responsibility in this process is purely administrative. The GAO makes no determination on the merit of each claim nor does it have the authority to question the judgment of the Labor Department. In fact, the GAO doesn't even directly deliver to workers their lost wages. Instead, that responsibility is vested with the Department of Treasury.
While claims processing was once routine business for the GAO, this authority has increasingly transitioned to the executive agencies charged with enforcing the law, such as the Department of Defense involving matters of military pay. Additionally, personnel changes within the GAO are making it more difficult for the agency to meet this responsibility. Key staff members have retired and more are expected to do so at any time. The GAO should not have to undertake this administrative burden any longer.
H.R. 6371 will transfer this payment authority from the GAO to the Department of Labor, thereby reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and ensuring workers receive their compensation in a timely manner. By reforming the claims process, we can remove redundancies and promote greater efficiency within the federal government. I urge my colleagues to support the Streamlining Claims Processing for Federal Contractor Employees Act.