IOPFDA Wins Battles Against Federal Prison Industries Expansion

While most of the country is dealing with heat waves and vacations, the team at IOPFDA have been working to protect our office furniture dealers and manufacturers from an effort by Federal Prison Industries to tilt the playing field back into their favor through language they had included in the House FY’19 National Defense Reauthorization Act.  This language is a big deal because initially it took the industry twelve years to level the playing field and ensure that our dealer and manufacturer members had a fighting chance to compete for opportunities that had previously been directed to FPI through mandatory source. 

For twelve years, IOPFDA worked with a large business-labor coalition that worked very hard to create open and fair competition with FPI.  And, in the blink of an eye, that hard work almost came unraveled.  This not only would have taken our industry back, but would have allowed for further FPI expansion at the expense of the office furniture industry.  Thanks to IOPFDA’s leadership team led by Paul Miller, Mike Tucker and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), we were able to have the language taken out of the final FY’19 NDAA bill that is headed to the President’s desk for his signature. 

Soak this in for all of a minute and then it’s time to move on to the next battle.  Congress is also looking to pass legislation reforming our criminal justice system.  Both the House and Senate bills contain provisions that would allow FPI to expand its efforts in the commercial market.  We are continuing to educate key members of the House and Senate about the implications of this language and what it means to our industry.  We are hopeful that we can either strip this language or change it to make sure it is a win-win for both sides. 

IOPFDA supports the original mission of the FPI program.  We want inmates to learn real life skills and trades they can use in their community upon being released from prison.  This type of support only strengthens our workforce and communities.  We, however, will oppose any legislation that seeks to expand FPI’s reach at the expense of our businesses, who work hard to support their communities.  There is a balance and IOPFDA has been and is willing to sit down with members of Congress who want to create a solution that benefits both sides.  We can get there if industry is included in the discussions.  In the twelve years leading up to FPI reform, industry was at the table and included in the dialogue.  This year we were not and it’s why we strongly opposed any efforts to include language in the NDAA bill without Congress fully understanding the impacts such an effort would have on both industry and FPI. 

Congratulations to IOPFDA for all their hard work.  This was a heavy lift and one the industry should celebrate.  The industry needs to become engaged with IOPFDA, as this issue is not going away and will be something we tackle the rest of this year and in the new Congress next year.  If we want to ensure we protect the level playing field, we need to re-engage like we did in 2008 to re-create the team and success we achieved then. 

For more information on what happened or how this issue does or could impact your business, contact Mike Tucker, IOPFDA President and CEO at 410-931-8100.