Obama Helps Organized Labor

Update: This blog post explains the executive orders a bit more clearly, as do its linked sources.

original post:

President Obama signed three executive orders today designed to reverse the Executive Branch's hostility toward organized labor. The text of the orders hasn't been posted on the White House website as of this writing, but should soon be available here for viewing.

In the president's words:

One of these orders is going to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to reimburse federal contractors who spend money trying to influence the formation of unions. We will also require that federal contractors inform their employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Federal labor laws encourage collective bargaining, and employees should know their rights to avoid disruption of federal contracts.

[more ...]

And I'm issuing an order so that qualified employees will be able to keep their jobs even when a contract changes hands. We shouldn't deprive the government of these workers who have so much experience in making government work.

After so many years of listening to the Republican power structure condemn organized labor as if it were synonymous with organized crime, it's good to hear these words from a president:

I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem, to me it's part of the solution.

Another move that may prove useful in the long term (depending upon your belief in the efficacy of task forces) is the formation of a Joe Biden led task force devoted to improving the lives of middle class working families, with an emphasis on education and job training, job and income protection, retirement security protection, and improving labor standards and workplace safety.

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    In the context of federal contracts, (none / 0) (#1)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:35:34 PM EST
    let's not forget who ultimately foots the bill for these collectively bargained wages and benefits: the taxpayer. If the union's get a stronger hold in federal contracts, your taxes simply go up my friends to pay for it. Just something to think about.

    That's true (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Steve M on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:53:27 PM EST
    we could save money by paying workers pursuant to an unfair process as opposed to a fair process, but I'm willing to pay that price.  That's why I vote for the party that supports unions and collective bargaining rather than the party that wants to destroy them.

    I am a firm believer that a strong middle class making a solid living is better for the country as a whole, because it's these fairly-compensated union workers whose consumption fuels the economy.  At the end of the day, the China model with a few oligarchs at the top and a mass of peasants at the bottom is only good for the oligarchs.


    You misunderstand. (5.00 / 0) (#19)
    by TChris on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 06:31:59 PM EST
    A president's power to issue an executive order is limited.  The president cannot create a new law.  Executive orders typically direct executive branch agencies to apply or interpret an existing law in a particular way.  The executive order was limited to federal contractors because contractors who don't do business with the federal government, and who therefore aren't paid with federal tax dollars, are beyond the executive order's reach.  The efficacy of this executive order is unclear (it might not accomplish anything beyond sending a message) but it's unfair to accuse Obama of slickness for not exercising power he doesn't have.  Congress should enact legislation to revitalize the National Labor Relations Act, and regulatory law should be revised, but the comprehensive approach that is needed to restore the life and spirit of the NLRA will take some time.  It can't be done by signing an executive order.

    Nope. Not advocating an unfair (none / 0) (#7)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:44:55 PM EST
    process. The process is already a matter of law, as defined in the Service Contract Act (SCA). A contractor providing a service to the federal government under a federal contract may not pay less than the prevailing wage for the area, as established by the Department of Labor. The process has been a matter of law since the McNamara era.

    It seems to me (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Steve M on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:58:25 PM EST
    that prevailing wage laws are basically an attempt to achieve the same outcome as free-market processes by means of a workaround.  An actual collective bargaining process, however, is the real thing.

    reimburse (none / 0) (#23)
    by plutosdad on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 07:41:48 PM EST
    I think Obama's just playing games with the word "reimburse"

    What it sounds like to me is no federal money for contractors who try to discourage unions. That would be a sea change not just from the last administration, but all of history.

    It's news to me that federal law "encourages" unions, I thought it was supposed to be agnostic just protect unions and allow them to form.

    Just like open card voting, which is a complete reversal of hundreds of years of anonymous voting being the only way to guarantee protection of the voters.

    We're going beyond simply stopping hostility towards unions, towards being hostile to anyone that doesn't want a union in their company, and soon giving unions the names and addresses of workers who don't vote to join.


    Wow (5.00 / 0) (#24)
    by Steve M on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 08:00:13 PM EST
    The anti-union propaganda must be getting through to folks.  Hundreds of years of anonymous voting?  (The NLRA was passed in 1935.)  You must not be aware that card-check is already the law, the difference is that the employer would no longer get a veto over it.

    Let's not forget either (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by ruffian on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 04:01:34 PM EST
    that tax revenues go up when those collectively bargained wages go up.

    Not always (none / 0) (#14)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 04:14:39 PM EST
    Increase to fringe benefits do not necessarily mean an increase to tax revenues.

    Great (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by daring grace on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 04:27:40 PM EST
    My taxes under Bush/Cheney have gone to pay for innumerable atrocities and profits for the undeserving affluent.

    Paying decent wages and benefits to gov't workers works for me. Of course, I'm the daughter of both a gov't worker and two union members so maybe I'm biased...


    Slavery is even cheaper (none / 0) (#10)
    by koshembos on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:56:45 PM EST
    although, I don't believe you favor it.

    Unions is the right of employees to organize, which is not denied anybody else.

    We tried to build a society where only the rich are important; we see the results in the second depression.


    I'm not advocating that (none / 0) (#13)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 04:07:21 PM EST
    employees be denied any right they have under federal law. As a company chief spokesperson for the past five years in numerous labor negotiations involving federal contracts, wages and benefits can run amok. I routinely hear this remark at the bargaining table, "why should you care about the cost,you can pass it along to the taxpayer anyway?" And yet I'm charged with being a fiscally sound steward of the taxpayer's dollar. Looks like the President  just made it more difficult to look after your dollar.

    I think that is fair! (none / 0) (#22)
    by hairspray on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 07:32:57 PM EST
    I have seen a lot of "featherbedding" in my time and I feel that it hurt the union cause.  Unions are essential to the strength of the middle class and I want to see them flourish.  How do we walk that fine line?  Maybe Andy Stern is the new leader here!

    So, (none / 0) (#15)
    by zyx on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 04:26:37 PM EST
    the Republicans are right? Unions are bad, and generally to be discouraged?

    Is that what you are saying?


    This is (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by JThomas on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 06:06:50 PM EST
    the kind of pretzel logic these so-called democrats on here have to apply to oppose Obama even when he helps unions.

    The unions are happy with this and yet these supposedly labor friendly folks are saying Obama is anti-labor or something...not sure what they are saying really and I dont think know either..as long as it is anti-Obama,it works for them.


    I'm getting the picture (none / 0) (#21)
    by zyx on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 07:32:55 PM EST
    and I'm getting reamed thankyouverymuch.

    On another board where I mess around we have a guy who characterizes some folks who are incredibly partisan (it's a broader bunch) as "our guys good, yours bad, oog oog". Cracks me up when he says it!


    So what does this mean, (none / 0) (#2)
    by maddog on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:45:01 PM EST
    If a contractor loses a contract, for example to provide computer services, then the company that won the bid, expecting to use their own employees, must use the former contractor's employees.

    In NYS at least there are many laws requiring employers to post workers rights in a conspicuous area.  I have a bulletin board full of this type of information in our lunch room.  How does this change anything?

    I think this all amounts to nothing except Obama trying to look good for unions.  What does this executive order (preventing the government from reimbursing "federal contractors who spend money trying to influence the formation of unions.")  Doesn't the Federal Labor Relations Board already investigate these types of issues.  

    In my mind this is just another reason for contractors not to bid on Government contracts.  Thus limiting the bidder pool and jacking up the contract prices.

    We'll have to wait and see what the (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:49:51 PM EST
    text of decision provides. Under the Service Contract Act, there is currently no obligation for a succesful contractor to hire all of the employees of the predeccesor contractor that was performing the work. This has been a contentious point with the unions for years, even long before the Bush regime.  

    Meant to say "successor" contractor (none / 0) (#9)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:52:32 PM EST
    Im waiting for the wingers (none / 0) (#4)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:58:44 PM EST
    to come in and tell us that corporations that hire lobbying firms to lobby pols for them are nothing like unions using collective bargining.