Showing solidarity with workers on Labor Day, President Barack Obama will sign an executive order today requiring paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors, including 300,000 who currently receive none. The White House wouldn't specify the cost to federal contractors to implement the executive order, which Obama will address at a major union rally and breakfast in Boston. The Labor Department says any costs would be offset by savings that contractors would see as a result of lower attrition rates and increased worker loyalty. Under the order, employees working on federal contracts gain the right to a minimum of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours they work. Stretched out over 12 months, that's up to seven days per year.
The order will allow employees to use the leave to care for sick relatives as well, and will affect contracts starting in 2017—just as Obama leaves office. The Obama administration has been working on the executive order for months, and chose Labor Day to announce it as Obama works to enact what policies he can before his presidency ends despite resistance in Congress to laws he's proposed to improve workplace conditions. Roughly 44 million private sector workers don't get paid sick leave—about 40% of the private-sector workforce, the White House says. In his speech to the Greater Boston Labor Council's breakfast, Obama was also to renew his call for Congress to expand the requirement beyond contract workers to all but the smallest US businesses. (Read more Labor Day stories.)