Labor unions are cheering three labor-related executive orders issued by President Barack Obama on Jan. 30, saying they are illustrative of a new pro-labor mind-set in the White House. But employer groups are wary and warn that potential legal action may follow if the President makes good on a promise to issue a fourth order related to project labor agreements, expected as early as the week of Feb. 2.
One order reverses a directive by former President Bush that required employers to post notices informing workers of their rights not to join or support a union; a second order prohibits federal contractors from being reimbursed for any efforts to influence workers’ decisions to join a union or bargain collectively; a third requires federal contractors on service contracts to offer jobs to workers from the previous contract.
Three Issued on Jan. 30; Fourth Could Be Issued Week of Feb. 2
- Reverses a Bush order requiring employers to post notices informing
workers of their rights not to join or support a union.
- Prohibits federal contractors from being reimbursed for any efforts to influence workers' decision to join a union or bargain collectively.
- Requires federal contractors on service contracts to offer jobs to workers from the previous contract.
- Expected: Reversing a Bush order prohibiting project labor agreements on federal and federally assisted projects.
Tom Owens, spokesman for the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept., says the orders demonstrate the “change that’s taken place in the White House.” Obama “believes unions are critical to resurrecting the middle class of the United States,” Owens says. Owens says a fourth directive, one reversing a Bush order that prohibited project labor agreements on federal projects, is in the works.
Geoff Burr, vice president of government affairs with Associated Builders and Contractors, says his group will consider legal action to challenge any order that mandates project labor agreements on federal projects. ABC believes project labor agreements hinder competition and can lead to cost overruns on projects.
Ray Poupore, executive vice president of the National Construction Alliance, an alliance of the carpenters’ and operating engineers’ unions, disputes that assertion, noting that portions of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project in northern Virginia were completed under a project labor agreement before the Bush administration’s order went into effect. Those portions were completed “within budget and a month ahead of schedule,” he says.
Burr says ABC also has concerns with the orders for posting requirements and employer discussions with employees over collective bargaining because each would make it more difficult for employers to talk to employees. “We think having an open ability to communicate with employees is only a good thing, for employers as well as employees,” he says.