Obama's Big Labor Day Plan Will Grant Paid Sick Leave To Federal Employees

When's a better time for a president to make an announcement about workers' rights than on the day that was founded by America's labor movement? On Monday, President Obama is expected to issue mandatory paid sick leave to government contractors — his latest move in a bold plan to expand benefits to American workers. The president will make the announcement in Boston, which has some mighty significance: Last November, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to pass earned sick leave legislation. Massachusetts could provide a solid model for Obama, who has expressed interest in mandating paid sick and parental leave nationwide.

"We are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers," Obama said during his State of the Union address in January. "Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave — 43 million. Think about that."

The president promised at the time that he would work with states to implement their own paid sick leave laws. "Since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let's put it to a vote right here in Washington," the president added.

While Washington isn't there just yet, Obama's Labor Day announcement will still be seen as a grand gesture to federal workers. Through Obama's executive order, government contractors will have to give their employees seven days of paid sick leave each year. According to White House advisers, additional workers will also be eligible to receive one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, beginning in 2017. All in all, the White House said Monday's executive order will benefit roughly 300,000 federal workers.

The White House said federal workers would be able to use these paid sick days for not just their own health, but to also take care of their families, such as a child or parent. Obama also plans to ensure that the health benefits these federal workers are receiving are in-line with leading health care firms.

But Obama will certainly use Monday's announcement as a way to push for broader paid sick and parental leave mandates, including legislation to protect millions of private-sector workers without any sick leave. "Everyday, the president sees the pressing need for policies to support working families," White House adviser Valerie Jarrett told reporters Sunday, via Reuters.

According to the White House, the president will once again call on Congress on Monday to reconsider the Healthy Families Act, which would provide all U.S. workers with paid sick leave. The act requires all companies with at least 15 employees to provide up to seven earned sick days a year for its employees.

"We have to do better, and we can do better," Jarrett told reporters on the call. "While we're waiting for Congress to do their job, President Obama is doing what he can."

Following Obama's announcement Monday, Dan Cantor, national director of the Working Families Party, said in a statement:

A decade ago, there wasn't a single paid sick days law in America. But working families are standing up and politicians are listening, and progress is coming faster. President Obama's Executive Order will help. Before too long, we'll wonder what the big deal was. We'll see paid sick days like child labor laws and the minimum wage: a basic standard that is beyond debate.