(Washington, DC) - Today, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Jay Obernolte (R-CA) sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) requesting answers to concerning new changes made to the Department’s Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs).
In January 2023, DOE began including new language in its FOAs requiring applicants to submit a Community Benefits Plan in line with the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, demonstrating how they are advocating for collective bargaining and unionization within their organizations. This is highly alarming as this appears to be in conflict with federal regulations that prohibit these types of solicitations from being either pro or anti-union.
“It has come to our attention that the DOE has recently issued dozens of FOAs that appear to heavily encourage the use of unionized labor, requiring applicants to demonstrate how they are advocating for unionization inside their organization. This type of direction is in clear conflict with long-standing federal acquisition regulations (FARs) that ban federal contractors from either encouraging or discouraging unionization,” Lucas and Obernolte wrote. “These FARs are in place to ensure a meritorious selection process and to protect taxpayer dollars from mismanagement and political bias. Until recently, DOE FOAs included specific language acknowledging these regulations and DOE’s apparent shift in FAR compliance is deeply alarming. It calls into question its ability to manage funding opportunities properly and fairly.”
The removal of the FAR language discouraging applicants taking sides related to unionization, paired with the now pro-unionization language is, “understood by industry leaders to mean that unionized labor is now encouraged by DOE, if not a prerequisite to receive the grant.” Lucas and Obernolte continued, “Decisions like these undermine the public’s trust in DOE’s actions by giving the perception that political bias is influencing policy.”
The leaders added, “The Committee has a duty to ensure that the DOE is adhering to current federal regulations and that they are spending taxpayer dollars in an efficient and appropriate manner. Encouraging unionization is an inappropriate attempt to insert politics into science. The Biden Administration should prioritize good federal investments over special interests.”
The lawmakers requested the Department provide answers to the letter’s proposed questions as to why the changes were made to the FOA process by November 13, 2023.