One of the unheralded victories in the Democratic Party platform victories puts the party officially on the side of workers in a big, concrete way.
The platform draft that is now on its way to the full platform committee, which votes on it at a meeting in Orlando, Fla., in early July, includes a call for a "model employer executive order," or what is often called a "good jobs executive order."
The language included in the draft says:
"Democrats support a Model Employer Executive Order or some other vehicle to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union. The $1 trillion spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class."
A coalition of worker and grass-roots organizations has been pressing President Obama to sign such an executive order, which would cover an estimated 8 million workers employed by federal contractors. Many of these workers are in low-wage service jobs, such as preparing fast food for companies such as McDonald's and Subway that have contracts to operate on federal facilities.
President Obama has already signed executive orders that raised the minimum wage for federal contract work to $10.10 an hour, after Republicans in Congress refused to increase the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour. Other executive orders the president has signed require contractors to offer employees paid sick leave and require contracting agencies to hold bidders accountable for past labor law violations, and ban repeat offenders from future contracts.
But the model employer or good jobs executive order would be a more comprehensive solution to the problems of low-wage workers. It would likely mean that workers for federal contractors would start at $15 an hour, within three or four years if not immediately; would qualify for health care benefits, paid vacation and other benefits; and would be able to organize and join a union without being threatened by the employer. It is expected that such an executive order would raise the wages and open up to collective bargaining the jobs of millions of private-sector workers also employed by companies that have federal contracts.
“By including the Model Employer Executive Order in the platform, the Democratic Party is recognizing the reality of legislative dysfunction and committing to build on President Obama’s labor executive actions," said Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation, which has been mobilizing low-wage workers in support of the executive orders, in a statement. "More importantly, this move signals that Democrats are beginning to unite behind a key governing principle – the U.S. government should be on the side of America’s workers, not big corporations.”
The pressure continues for President Obama to sign such an executive order himself before he leaves office. Having that executive order in the party platform puts the weight of the Democratic Party policymaking apparatus behind what has been up to now a largely low-wage-worker-driven effort. If President Obama leaves office without such an order in place, this becomes an issue to which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton can be held accountable if she wins in November.