President Barack Obama intends to overturn four Bush-era executive orders that unions opposed, officials said Thursday.
Obama planned to reverse one order Friday that allowed unionized companies to post signs informing workers that they were allowed to decertify their union, an order some claim is unfair because nonunion businesses are not required to post signs letting workers know they were legally allowed to vote for a union.
Two Democratic sources also said Obama would prevent federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses that were intended to influence workers' decisions to form unions or engage in collective bargaining. A third order would require federal vendors with more than $100,000 in contracts to post workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
The final order would require service contractors at federal buildings to offer jobs to qualified current employees when contracts changed. For instance, rank-and-file workers could continue working on the same federal project even if the administrative contract expired. The officials disclosed the plans on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to pre-empt the White House's plans.
Friday was set to be the second consecutive day for labor leaders to visit the White House. On Thursday, Obama welcomed them to the East Room as he signed his first major piece of legislation, an equal-pay act that organized labor and women's groups championed.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act allowed workers a longer window in which to sue employers for pay discrimination. At Thursday's billsigning, Obama declared: "There are no second-class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal — but bad for business — to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability."
That tone was expected to continue on Friday, when the administration also planned to re-announce a Middle Class Task Force designed to coordinate an approach to a slice of the country that has seen its ranks shrink as the economy falters. Vice President Joe Biden will lead the group of advisers and four Cabinet members.
"One of the things I was talking to my staff about yesterday is I do believe — and I make no apologies for it — that over the last 100 years the middle class was built on the back of organized labor. Without their weight, heft and their insistence starting in the early 1900s we wouldn't have the middle class we have now, in my view," Biden told CNBC for an interview Thursday. "So I think labor getting a fair share of the pie is part of it."
Labor leaders have been lobbying the Obama administration to repeal scores of executive orders they view as hostile to their cause. Officials gave administration officials their top 10 executive orders they wanted to see dismantled.
After eight years of President George W. Bush's Republican administration, labor leaders approached Obama's Democratic administration with cause for optimism.
Congress is considering the Employee Free Choice Act — also called card check — that would give workers the option of forming a union by simply signing a card or petition instead of holding secret ballot elections. Labor officials see the bill as a way to rebuild dwindling membership; one in eight workers today is a member of a union, down from about one in five 25 years ago.
Business groups vehemently oppose the legislation and claim passage of the card check bill will put many of their members out of business.
Obama during the campaign pledged to support the measure if — and it's a big if — it makes its way to his desk.
Obama's decision to do back-to-back events that were high on labor's priorities signal that Obama is not ignoring their concerns. It's also the latest move in which Obama has broken with his predecessor.
Many executive orders are enacted and repealed based on which party controls the White House. For instance, one of the rules Obama planned to repeal on Friday was approved by President George. H.W. Bush, removed by President Bill Clinton removed it and reinstated by the second President Bush.