President Obama recently signed three Executive Orders focusing on labor laws. The orders might give HR and employers some insights into the President’s overall plan, especially as it pertains to unions.
The good news is that, for now, the orders apply only to federal contractors. (Of course, if you’re a federal contractor, then the news isn’t so good.) Law-employment analysts are picking the orders apart to figure out if they provide some sign into what’s coming — for everyone.
Here are the details of the three orders:
Economy in Government Contracting
The order prohibits federal contractors from spending federal funds to persuade employees to reject union representation. For instance, an employer can’t spend the money to:
- prepare or distribute informational materials
- hire or confer with legal counsel or consultants
- hold meetings or plan or conduct anti-union activities by managers or supervisors during work hours.
The law states that contractors can use federal dollars to “maintain satisfactory relations” between the contractor and its employees — by, for instance, supporting labor-management committees, employee publications (provided they do not attempt to persuade employees regarding unionization) and other related activities.
Here’s the tricky part. If an employer’s revenues come only via federal contracts, the matter is cut and dried because any money is federal money and can’t be used for anti-union activities. But if employers also have nongovernment business, they’ll have to set up accounting procedures to earmark which money comes from where and how it is used.
Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers under Service Contracts
This order details rights for employees of federal contractors when a contract changes hands. So, all new federal service contracts covered by the Service Contract Act must now contain a provision granting employees of a federal contractor that has lost the service contract the right of first refusal for employment with the new contractor. The new contractor can’t hire new employees, other than management and supervisors, until all employees of the previous contractor have been offered employment.
Notification of Employee Rights under Federal Law
This revokes President Bush’s Executive Order 13201 requiring federal contractors to post a notice in the workplace informing employees of their rights to resist unionization as detailed in a Supreme Court case, Communication Workers of America v. Beck.
In that case the court held, among other rulings, that all non-union members (in agency shops in right to work states) and financial core members (in union shops in non-right-to-work states) will not have to pay fees to unions other than for the purposes of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. The executive order doesn’t reverse the decision in Beck, but it will replace the notice required under the Bush Administration. The Labor Department has 120 days to come up with a new notice.