President Barack Obama today reversed three Bush-era anti-worker executive orders and created a Cabinet-level task force to rebuild the nation’s middle class. In a White House ceremony this morning attended by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and other union leaders, Obama signed three executive orders that reverse a series of orders by then-President George W. Bush, which govern the way federal contractors deal with unionized workers.
The three new executive orders:
- Require federal service contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change.
- Reverse a Bush order requiring federal contractors to post notice that workers can limit financial support of unions serving as their exclusive bargaining representatives.
- Prevent federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses meant to influence workers deciding whether to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.
Before signing the orders, Obama said:
We cannot have a strong middle class without strong labor unions. We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests.
Obama also announced creation of the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families to develop and coordinate policies to rebuild the nation’s middle class and lift the poor out of poverty. Vice President Joe Biden will chair the task force.
The task force has set up a new website, www.strongmiddleclass.gov/, where workers can submit stories and ideas about how the economy has affected them and ideas on changing it.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says:
The Task Force on Middle Class Working Families and the executive orders are the first step in a long road to restore balance between workers and corporations. As the weeks and months continue, we thank God that we have a president, vice president, and Congress who are determined to fix our economy so that it works for everyone.
Writing in USA Today, Biden says after the economy is jump-started by the new stimulus package, the top economic priority must be to rebuild the middle class.
On top of this urgent task, though, we have an important long-term task as well. Once this economy starts growing again, we need to make sure the benefits of that growth reach the people responsible for it. We can’t stand by and watch as that narrow sliver of the top of the income scale wins a bigger piece of the pie—while everyone else gets a smaller and smaller slice.
In government, as in life, you need clear goals to succeed. In the Obama/Biden administration, we have set a very clear goal: Our administration will have succeeded if the middle class once again starts to share in the economic success of this nation.
School Administrators President Jill Levy, who attended today’s signing, said in a statement:
This morning President Barack Obama welcomed labor back into the White House, where it has not been welcome for the last eight years. By announcing the creation of the Task Force on Middle Class Working Families, President Obama and Vice President Biden have assured all that they see growing the middle class and building a strong labor movement as inextricably tied to growing our economy.
United American Nurses President Ann Converso, who also attended the signings, said:
For nurses, union representation is critically important in allowing us to effectively advocate for our patients and give the quality of care our patients deserve. It was clear to me from my meeting with the president and vice president that they also understand the importance and value of unions for nurses and all workers as we pull together to try to jumpstart our middle class.
Biden announced that his chief economic adviser Jared Bernstein will serve as executive director of the task force. Bernstein, a 16-year veteran of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), most recently served as director of EPI’s living standards program.
This is the second consecutive day that Obama has shown his support for workers. Yesterday, he signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthens laws to ensure equal pay for equal work.