By Sam Stein
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order on Thursday seeking enhanced workplace conditions and rights for federal contract workers, three separate sources have told The Huffington Post.
One of those sources told The Huffington Post that “progressive workers' rights groups are getting asked for workers who would be impacted by the executive order to be there [at the White House] tomorrow.”
The exact details of the order remain unknown. The White House has not responded to repeated and numerous requests for comment. But sources outside the administration expect it to require contractors to disclose labor law violations. The order is also expected to encourage executive agencies to consider labor law violations when ordering federal contracts.
A preview of the president's likely intentions may have been given on Tuesday in a post by the Obama-allied Center for American Progress. That post encouraged the president to sign an executive order that would “ensure that only companies that comply with federal workplace laws are able to receive federal contracts.”
The issuing of an executive order by the president on Thursday would indicate that the administration feels unbowed by a lawsuit brought forth by congressional Republicans challenging the extent of the executive actions he has taken.
Over the past year and a half there have been nine protests by low-wage federal contract workers over the conditions at their workplaces. In June 2013, workers at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging labor violations.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, meanwhile, released a report late last year documenting some of the poor conditions of workers for federal contractors. The report noted that 18 federal contractors "were recipients of one of the largest 100 penalties issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor between 2007 and 2012."
The president has already signed one related executive order, setting a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for workers under federal contracts. Workers have been encouraged by the order, but also have pushed the administration to take additional action that would, among other things, enhance their collective bargaining rights, protect them from wage theft and enhance workplace protections.
In addition, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has urged the president to sign an executive order along these lines. In a letter sent last week, the caucus chairs called for a Good Jobs Executive Order that touched on three tenets: guaranteeing labor and employment law protections; adopting a “fair compensation preference” (in which contractors would be favored if they provided a living wage and full benefits package); and respecting workers’ rights to negotiate.
“The President is leading by example, establishing the principle that if you are breaking the law, you don’t get to do business with the Federal government," said Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win, a sponsor of the Good Jobs Nation campaign of low wage federal contract workers. "Just like the $10.10 executive order had a ripple effect across the economy, we hope that this bold step by the President sends a clear signal to the private sector that you need to do right by your workers.”