President Barack Obama signed a series of executive orders Friday that he said should "level the playing field" for labor unions in struggles with management.
Obama also used the occasion at the White House to formally announce a new White House task force on the problems of middle-class Americans, and installed Vice President Joe Biden as its chairman.
In another move favorable to organized labor, the president signed three executive orders that union officials say will undo Bush administration policies that favored employers over workers. The orders Obama signed will:
- Require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change.
- Reverse a Bush order requiring federal contractors to post notice that workers can limit financial support of unions serving as their exclusive bargaining representatives.
- Prevent federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses meant to influence workers deciding whether to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.
"We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests," Obama said before signing the executive orders during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
"I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem. To me, it's part of the solution," he said, to a round of applause. "You cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement."
On the middle-class tax force, Obama said "we're not forgetting the poor because they, too, share our American dream."
He said his administration wants to make sure low-income people "get a piece" of the American pie "if they're willing to work for it."