Both Presidents Obama and Trump have made extensive use of executive orders to achieve goals stymied by congressional gridlock. A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) signals what a new Democratic administration could mean for federal contractors.
Presidents can use executive orders to impose conditions on federal contractors, such as President Johnson’s executive order 11246 establishing affirmative action requirements on federal contractors, which is strongly supported by HR Policy member companies. However, in recent years such orders have been used by Presidents to establish additional requirements for federal contractors—such as paid sick leave and a minimum wage increase—where legislation with broader coverage has stalled in Congress. During the Obama administration, Vice President Biden played a leading role in these initiatives.
Senator Brown’s op-ed may provide some clues as to what a Biden presidency could mean for federal contractors. While the thrust of the op-ed is to hold large companies' feet to the fire in view of recent pledges on corporate social responsibility and social justice, various expectations he raises could be imposed via executive order as requirements for federal contractors, including:
- “Stop fighting your employees’ efforts to form unions. Stay neutral in all union elections and stop pressuring workers who dare to organize.”
- “End the ‘independent contractor’ business model that absolves you of responsibility for your workers. If you have hundreds of ‘independent contractors,’ those are your employees, and you need to treat them that way.”
- “Give employees power over their lives and schedules. Guarantee them advance notice of and input over their work schedules, so they can plan day-care pickups and doctor’s appointments and transportation. Pay workers when they work overtime or odd hours.”
- “Diversify your top executives and corporate boards. A tiny group of mostly white men shouldn’t be making decisions that affect the livelihoods of millions of diverse workers.”
- “Allow workers to save for retirement, and help them do it. Match contributions to retirement accounts for all your employees, not just white-collar, salaried workers.”
- “Pay your fair share. Stop lobbying Congress for yet more tax breaks, and stop shoveling money into political campaigns to defeat anyone who disagrees.”
Outlook: Recent presidents of both parties have kicked off their terms with highly visible executive orders in the proverbial “first 100 days.” The only thing that could deter Biden from following suit would be Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, assisting fulfillment of such goals for all employers, especially if the Senate eliminates the filibuster and enables all legislation to pass with a bare majority.