President Proposes Ordering Sick Leave For Federal Contractors

Dave Johnson

President Obama is drafting an executive order to require federal contractors to provide sick leave for workers who are sick or caring for a sick relative. The order would benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans. How does this measure up to the Good Jobs Nation coalition’s “More than the Minimum, The President’s Unfinished Agenda” demands?

More Than The Minimum

Last year the Good Jobs Nation coalition launched a More Than The Minimum campaign, asking President Obama to use the federal government’s purchasing power to get federal contractors to start being model employers, instead of engaging in our economy’s current race to the bottom. They asked the President to require contractors (and their subcontractors) to pay $15 an hour with decent benefits and to respect collective bargaining rights.

Good Jobs Nation said this will help transform our economy:

A comprehensive set of Good Jobs Executive Orders – coupled with effective oversight and implementation – can have a transformative impact on our workers and the economy. These policies can provide a path into the middle class for millions of workers, reduce reliance on public aid programs, eliminate government waste, improve the provision of public services and boost the economy.

In his November post, “More Than The Minimu,” Robert Borosage explained:

Earlier this week, the Campaign for America’s Future joined the Good Jobs Nation coalition and the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to urge President Obama to issue executive orders that would leverage the $1 trillion in federal contracting to give preference to good employers and their workers.

The coalition released the “More Than The Minimum” proposal consisting of two powerful executive orders:

1. In all decisions to award contracts and other competitively selected government funds and benefits, preference should be given to model employers – that is, firms that offer a livable wage of at least $15 an hour and decent benefits, including health insurance and leave for sickness and care giving, and provide full-time hours as well as fair and stable work schedules.

2. Employers that do business with the government should be required to ensure that their workers can bargain collectively for decent treatment and working conditions without being forced to go on strike to make their voices heard.

More recently, Isaiah Pool linked this fight to the transportation/infrastructure battle in Congress, in “‘Raise Wages, Empower Workers’ At the Top of the Populism2015 Agenda”:

Organizations like Good Jobs Nation have been pressing President Obama to sign a “good jobs” executive order, and parallel efforts have been mounted in several states. Without a movement pressing this issue, it is more lively that upcoming infrastructure bills, such as a transportation reauthorization bill that Congress is expected to debate later this spring, will include language that would drive wages down and give at least tacit cover to contractors to suppress worker organizing.

The President’s Proposed Sick Leave Order

The New York Times has the story, in the report, “Obama Drafts Order on Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors”:

Stymied by Republicans in Congress, President Obama has drafted an executive order to force any company that contracts with the federal government to issue paid leave to employees who are sick, are seeking medical attention or need to care for a sick relative.

The draft order, obtained by The New York Times on Wednesday, could affect hundreds of thousands of workers, because it would apply to federal contractors and their subcontractors.

What would the order cover?

The order would set a minimum of 56 hours a year of paid sick leave, about seven days, but it is broad in scope. It covers not just an employee’s illness but also caring for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner “or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

It would apply to absences from work resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, if that time was used to seek medical attention, obtain counseling, seek relocation assistance from victim services organizations or prepare civil or criminal proceedings.

How Is The President Doing?

The President’s executive order on sick leave would come on top of previous executive orders including: requiring federal contractors to pay at lest $10.10 an hour; preventing companies from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation; recognizing same-sex marriages; and preventing federal contractors who have violated labor laws (including wage theft) from competing for certain types of work.

Good Jobs Nation lists the victories:

A Big One Is Still Missing

The President has not issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. In July’s “Federal Contractors Should Disclose Campaign Spending”:

Thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions, federal contractors can give unlimited amounts to “dark money” groups that influence elections with smear ads, etc.

In March, more than 50 organizations sent a letter asking President Obama to require federal contractors to disclose their spending on bribes political campaigns. Obviously, the public should know if and how much federal contractors are influencing those who decide what to spend on federal contracts.

In April, public interest groups delivered petitions signed by more than 550,000 citizens calling on the President to require this disclosure.

In June, 26 Senators and 104 Representatives sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to require this disclosure.

So far the President has done nothing.

So there is progress, but there is still a lot to do.

A few actions:

Credo Action Petition: Urge President Obama to sign an executive order requiring disclosure of political spending by federal contractors

People For the American Way petition: Urge President Obama to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending.

Public Citizen petition: President Obama, Stand Up to the U.S. Chamber and Fight for Disclosure petition: Tell President Obama: Require Federal Contractors to Disclose their Political Spending

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