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News from EPI Obama-era executive orders on federal contractors are important tools to raise wages and boost living standards

A new memo from EPI’s Perkins Project on Worker Rights and Wages lays out the various pro-worker executive orders signed by President Obama that are now under threat, either by Congress or by President Trump.

Tomorrow, congressional Republicans will begin the process, through the Congressional Review Act, of repealing the rule implementing President Obama’s executive order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces—a measure designed to protect workers on federal contracts from wage theft, unsafe workplaces, and being forced to waive their rights under anti-discrimination statutes.

“Repealing this rule will do nothing to help working people or create jobs. It will strip workers of an important protection and leave law-abiding contractors exposed to competition from businesses that don’t play by the rules,” said EPI Labor Counsel Celine McNicholas. “If Congress moves forward with repealing this rule, American taxpayer dollars will continue to support employers that violate basic wage and hour laws, safety regulations, and anti-discrimination protections.”

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order is just one of several executive orders by the previous administration to raise wages and benefits, reduce discrimination, improve worker safety, and increase worker rights. Executive orders only dictate how agencies manage the operations of the federal government itself—but because approximately 25 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed by companies that do business with the federal government, executive orders that relate to federal contractors can have a broad impact on the workforce.

Meanwhile, today, Trump signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to repeal two regulations for every one new rule they put forth. EPI’s Perkins Project has strongly condemned this order.

“Regulations can be important tools to raise wages, protect savings, increase standards of living, and protect working people on the job,” said Heidi Shierholz, EPI Director of Policy. “Going after regulations wholesale in this manner is misguided and inefficient, and will undoubtedly harm working people and suppress their wages.”

The previous administration’s executive orders related to worker rights and wages include:

  • Fair Pay Safe Workplaces (E.O. 13673), which requires that contractors disclose violations of federal labor laws and executive orders addressing wage and hour, safety and health, collective bargaining, family and medical leave, and civil rights protections
  • Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts (E.O. 13495), which gives employees of federal contractors the right of first refusal for employment on a new contract when a federal service contract changes hands
  • Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws (E.O. 13496), which requires federal contractors and subcontractors to notify employees about their rights under the National Labor Relations Act
  • Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects (E.O. 13502), which encourages agencies to use project labor agreements (PLAs) on large-scale construction projects
  • Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors (E.O. 13658), which raised the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts to $10.10 on January 1, 2015, and increases it annually thereafter based on inflation
  • Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information (E.O. 13665), which prevents contractors and subcontractors from punishing employees for discussing, disclosing, or inquiring about their own pay or that of their co-workers
  • Prohibiting Contractor Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (E.O. 13672), which prohibits contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in hiring, firing, pay, promotion, and other employment practices
  • Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors (E.O. 13706), which requires that employees of federal contractors accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked on a federal contract, up to 7 days annually