Last Friday, President Obama signed a series of Executive Orders intended to assist labor unions with organizing efforts involving federal contractors. Given the size of the proposed economic stimulus package, a large number of employers are considering becoming federal contractors for the first time. The new measures are intended to expand union access to these companies and their employees.
The most important of the new Executive Orders prohibits federal contractors from using any federally-obtained funds for the purpose of opposing union organizing efforts. Federal contractors could oppose such unionization efforts, but they will have the burden of proving that any expenditure made in conjunction with such efforts came from funds segregated from those received from the federal government. The Department of Labor will have the authority to debar contractors who violate this provision from future participation in federal government contracting.
A second order reverses President Bush’s E.O. 13201, which required federal contractors to inform employees at unionized facilities of their rights not to have their dues used for political, lobbying, or non-bargaining activities. Instead, President Obama’s order requires that employers inform employees of their collective bargaining and unionization rights through posters to be developed by DOL.
Organized labor contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to successful candidates in the last election cycle. The new Executive Orders are the first in an expected string of pro-labor measures from the new Administration. Over the next several weeks, Congress is expected to begin consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act, which if enacted, would end secret ballot union elections, and empower federal arbitrators to establish initial terms of collective bargaining agreements.