Obama, on a pro-labor roll, just signed the most important workers’ rights reform of the past 20 years.
If you’ve been following President Obama’s burst of enthusiasm for executive orders, you may have heard that he’s been flexing his muscle on behalf of labor. Last month, Obama banned federal contractors from discriminating against gay workers. For that one, he won liberal kudos and conservative scolding for refusing to exempt employers that object on religious grounds. Obama got similar attention for his order in January raising the minimum wage for new federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. The order, called Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces, does two things. It requires companies bidding for federal contracts worth more than $500,000 to make previous violations of labor law public, if they have any to report. That’s a shaming device that the administration hopes will push companies to settle back wage claims and nudge them toward better behavior in the future. The second part of the order says that companies with federal contracts worth more than $1 million can no longer force their employees out of court, and into arbitration, to settle accusations of workplace discrimination. Emily Bazelon, Slate, 8-7-14.