President Biden Creates Task Force on Organizing and Raises Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
Last week, President Biden issued two executive orders that directly impact employers.
The first executive order creates a White House Task Force on “Worker Organizing and Empowerment” to be chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris. This Task Force is slated to include various heads of federal agencies and Biden Administration cabinet members and will submit recommendations to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the public and private sectors. The Task Force will explore ways to “empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers.” While this executive order itself does not implement any immediate changes, it should be viewed as a bellwether of union-friendly changes to come in future NLRB decisions and rules.
The second executive order requires that federal contractors pay a $15-per-hour minimum wage, increased from the current federal contractor minimum wage of $10.95. All federal agencies will be required to implement the new $15.00 minimum wage in new contracts by March 2022. Agencies will also be required to implement the higher wage into existing contracts if they are extended. This order also phases out the sub-minimum wage for federal contractors by 2024. The Biden Administration recognizes that this increase has the potential to impact competitors in the same labor markets as federal contractors as they compete for workers.
In addition to these executive orders, President Biden, in his speech to Congress on April 28, reiterated his strong support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (the “Pro Act”). The Pro Act, which passed the House of Representatives on March 9, would, as currently written:
overrides “Right to Work” laws and allows unions to collect dues from those who opt out, in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining;
forbid employer interaction in union elections, forbid company-sponsored meetings with mandatory attendance, and allow employees to cast ballots in union organizing elections at a location away from company property;
allow newly certified unions to seek arbitration and mediation to settle early impasses in negotiations;
prevent an employer from considering an employee's immigration status when determining the terms of employment; and
establish monetary penalties for companies and executives that violate workers' rights. Corporate directors and other officers of the company could also be held personally liable.
While the Pro Act is not expected to pass in the Senate with the current filibuster rules in place, should those rules be modified, the Pro Act will likely be one of the first actions passed by the Senate and sent to President Biden for signature.
CGWG will continue to monitor how developments in Washington impact employers around the country and in Arkansas. Should you have any questions about President Biden’s executive orders, how the actions of Congress affect your organization and workforce, or any other aspects of employment law, please contact an attorney at our firm.