SR Holguin, PC is a union-side labor and employment law firm with nearly four decades of experience representing private sector unions, public sector unions, and multi-employer trust funds. SR Holguin, PC is committed to providing full-service legal representation to each of our clients.
One way in which SR Holguin, PC ensures our clients and their members stay informed is by keeping you updated on recent developments relating to workers’ rights. Today’s updates come following the release of President of the United States Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s initial Executive Orders. There are 5 items that could impact you.
1. Workers Who Could be Impacted: Federal Government Employees and Contractors
On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13991,“Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing.”
The Order provided in part “to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.” For purposes of the Order “‘Federal employees’ and ‘Federal contractors’ mean employees (including members of the Armed Forces and members of the National Guard in Federal service) and contractors (including such contractors’ employees) working for the executive branch.”
Further, the Order “established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force). The Task Force shall provide ongoing guidance to heads of agencies on the operation of the Federal Government, the safety of its employees, and the continuity of Government functions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such guidance shall be based on public health best practices as determined by CDC and other public health experts, and shall address, at a minimum, the following subjects as they relate to the Federal workforce: (i) testing methodologies and protocols; (ii) case investigation and contact tracing; (iii) requirements of and limitations on physical distancing, including recommended occupancy and density standards; (iv) equipment needs and requirements, including personal protective equipment; (v) air filtration; (vi) enhanced environmental disinfection and cleaning; (vii) safe commuting and telework options; (viii) enhanced technological infrastructure to support telework; (ix) vaccine prioritization, distribution, and administration; (x) approaches for coordinating with State, local, Tribal, and territorial health officials, as well as business, union, academic, and other community leaders; (xi) any management infrastructure needed by agencies to implement public health guidance; and (xii) circumstances under which exemptions might appropriately be made to agency policies in accordance with CDC guidelines, such as for mission-critical purposes.”
The Order also requires “the Director of CDC…[to] promptly develop and submit to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator a testing plan for the Federal workforce. This plan shall be based on community transmission metrics and address the populations to be tested, testing types, frequency of testing, positive case protocols, and coordination with local public health authorities for contact tracing.”
2. Workers Who Could be Impacted: United States Executive Branch Employees
On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued the “Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel.”
The Order provided in part, “every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2021, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee:
I recognize that this pledge is part of a broader ethics in government plan designed to restore and maintain public trust in government, and I commit myself to conduct consistent with that plan. I commit to decision-making on the merits and exclusively in the public interest, without regard to private gain or personal benefit. I commit to conduct that upholds the independence of law enforcement and precludes improper interference with investigative or prosecutorial decisions of the Department of Justice. I commit to ethical choices of post-Government employment that do not raise the appearance that I have used my Government service for private gain, including by using confidential information acquired and relationships established for the benefit of future clients. Accordingly, as a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in a position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law.”
The Order then went on to ban Executive Branch employees from accepting gifts from lobbyists, and ban revolving door lobbying for 2 years.
3. Workers Who Could be Impacted: School Employees Throughout the Country
On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued the “Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers.”
The Order provided in part “[e]very student in America deserves a high-quality education in a safe environment. This promise, which was already out of reach for too many, has been further threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. School and higher education administrators, educators, faculty, child care providers, custodians and other staff, and families have gone above and beyond to support children’s and students’ learning and meet their needs during this crisis. Students and teachers alike have found new ways to teach and learn. Many child care providers continue to provide care and learning opportunities to children in homes and centers across the country. However, leadership and support from the Federal Government is needed. Two principles should guide the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis with respect to schools, child care providers, Head Start programs, and higher education institutions. First, the health and safety of children, students, educators, families, and communities is paramount. Second, every student in the United States should have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, during and beyond the pandemic. Accordingly, it is the policy of my Administration to provide support to help create the conditions for safe, in-person learning as quickly as possible; ensure high-quality instruction and the delivery of essential services often received by students and young children at school, institutions of higher education, child care providers, and Head Start programs; mitigate learning loss caused by the pandemic; and address educational disparities and inequities that the pandemic has created and exacerbated.”
The Order then went on to outline ways in which the Secretary of Education and Secretary of Health and Human Services will further that policy, including “consult[ing] with…unions.”
4. Workers Who Could be Impacted: Workers Throughout the Country
On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued the “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety.”
The Order provided in part “[e]nsuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative. Healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It is the policy of my Administration to protect the health and safety of workers from COVID-19. The Federal Government must take swift action to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace. That will require issuing science-based guidance to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure, including with respect to mask-wearing; partnering with State and local governments to better protect public employees; enforcing worker health and safety requirements; and pushing for additional resources to help employers protect employees.”
The Order then calls for the “Secretary of Labor…[to] (a) issue, within 2 weeks of the date of this order…revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic; (b) consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021; (c) review the enforcement efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to COVID-19 and identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement; (d) launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles; and (e)…conduct, consistent with applicable law, a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives of their rights under applicable law. This campaign shall include engagement with labor unions, community organizations, and industries, and place a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.”
The Order also requires the “Secretary of Labor…[to] (i) coordinate with States that have occupational safety and health plans…to seek to ensure that workers covered by such plans are adequately protected from COVID-19, consistent with any revised guidance or emergency temporary standards issued by OSHA; and (ii) in States that do not have such plans, consult with State and local government entities with responsibility for public employee safety and health and with public employee unions to bolster protection from COVID-19 for public sector workers. (b)…explore mechanisms to protect workers not protected under the Act so that they remain healthy and safe on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic. (c)…consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 applicable to coal and metal or non-metal mines are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary and consistent with applicable law, issue them as soon as practicable.”
5. Workers Who Could be Impacted: Federal Government Employees
On January 22, 2021, President Biden issued the “Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce.”
The Order provided in part “[c]areer civil servants are the backbone of the Federal workforce, providing the expertise and experience necessary for the critical functioning of the Federal Government. It is the policy of the United States to protect, empower, and rebuild the career Federal workforce. It is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining. The Federal Government should serve as a model employer.” The Order then revoked a number of Executive Orders related to the civil service system issued by the prior administration.
Section 4 of the Order, entitled “Ensuring the Right to Engage in Collective Bargaining” provided “the head of each agency subject to the provisions of chapter 71 of title 5, United States Code, shall elect to negotiate over the subjects set forth in 5 U.S.C. 7106(b)(1) and shall instruct subordinate officials to do the same.”
Section 5 of the Order, entitled “Progress Toward a Living Wage for Federal Employees” requires the Director of the United States Office of Personnel Management to “provide a report to the President with recommendations to promote a $15/hour minimum wage for Federal employees.”
We hope these updates are helpful to you.
SR Holguin, PC