President Obama used Labor Day Monday to unilaterally provide a major new benefit for hundreds of thousands of people, signing an executive order mandating that federal contractors provide up to seven days paid sick leave per year.
The White House estimates some 300,000 people working on federal contracts will gain access to sick leave as a result of the order, and others will see their leave expanded. But the administration offered no estimate of how the benefit would be paid for, and acted on the matter even though legislation to expand paid sick and family leave is going nowhere in Congress.
The Labor Department said any costs would be offset by savings that contractors would see as a result of lower attrition rates and increased worker loyalty, but produced nothing to back that up, according to the Associated Press.
Obama announced the new benefit during a rally in Boston, lecturing businesses, as he has often done before, that his ideas are good for their bottom line.
“It’ll be good for business. It’s not bad for business,” Obama said of a legislative proposal to make paid family and medical leave “a reality for all Americans.”
In a statement released Monday, the White House similarly informed businesses that the new mandate would “benefit employers” by helping them hold onto employees.
“A body of research shows that offering paid sick days and paid family leave can benefit employers by reducing turnover and increasing productivity,” the statement said.
“Paid sick days would help reduce lost productivity due to the spread of illness in the workplace.”
Promoting congressional proposals for universal paid sick leave, Obama suggested the government should influence business decisions about who comes to work each day.
“Let’s face it — nobody wants a waiter who feels like they have to come to work when they’re coughing, when they’re contagious,” Obama said. “But if they don’t have sick leave, what are they going to do? They have to pay the rent. That’s no good for anybody.”
Obama said other nations have policies requiring sick leave, “so why not the United States?”
He added, “I’m calling out Congress: Take a cue from the rest of the world, work together in a bipartisan fashion, find a way to make paid leave — paid family and medical leave — a reality for all Americans. That’s something we should be doing.”
This article first appeared in PoliZette.