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Early Biden Executive Orders Give Insights into His Administration’s Labor Policies

In his first two weeks in office, President Joseph R. Biden has issued a series of Executive Orders addressing labor issues. These are only a portion of his agenda regarding employment, which also includes a nation-wide increase in the minimum wage to $15/hr, that is part of his COVID relief proposal, and longer term shifts in which the federal government will support the creation of jobs in renewable energy industries, while blocking projects that would create jobs in fossil fuel industries.

A review of the Executive Orders issued to date gives a clear indication of where this administration is headed regarding labor and employment.

January 20: Mask Wearing in the Federal Workforce. This Executive Order, issued on Inauguration Day, requires that all federal employees and contractors wear masks and maintain social distancing while on federal property. The EO contained language encouraging similar policies on non-governmental property.

January 20: Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. This EO reversed several EO’s issued by the previous administration. It directed all Executive branch departments to assess inequities affecting people across gender identity or sexual orientation. The language in the EO also included racial minorities, people with disabilities and those who live in rural areas. Within a year, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Management and Budget has been assigned to produce a plan to address issues found by this assessment.

January 22: Collective Bargaining Power and Worker Protection. This EO also reversed several EO’s from the previous administration. It returned federal employees who serve in policy positions to being part of the competitive service, restoring numerous adverse action protections that the previous administration had removed. The EO also extended the rights of federal employees to engage in collective bargaining.

January 22: Goal of Increasing the Minimum Wage to $15/hr for Federal Employees. This EO tasked the Office of Management and Budget with developing a plan to raise all federal employees to a $15/hr minimum wage.

These actions make it clear that this Administration will not shy away from regulation in the workplace with focus on wages, inclusiveness and employee security.

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