"There are certain Republicans that said we can't afford to do this," said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. He lamented how paid leave is seen as a partisan issue in the U.S. despite broad support in Europe. "The Republican Party is out of step with similar conservative governments around the world," he said.
Roughly 44 million private sector workers don't get paid sick leave—about 40 percent of the private-sector workforce, the White House said. In his speech to the Greater Boston Labor Council's breakfast, Obama was also to renew his call for Congress to expand the requirement beyond contract workers to all but the smallest U.S. businesses, an idea that has gained little traction on Capitol Hill.
The Labor Day gathering in Boston was attracting other bold-named politicians, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh among them. Union leaders like American Federation of Teachers President and Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry hitched a ride on Air Force One for the flight to Boston. And Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering entering the Democratic presidential primary, was to echo the labor rights theme in a march with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Monday at a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh.
Unable to push much of his agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, Obama has in recent years used executive orders with frequency to apply policies to federal contractors that he lacks the authority to enact nationwide. His aim is to lay the groundwork for those policies to be expanded to all Americans. Earlier executive orders have barred federal contractors from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, raised the minimum wage for contractors and expanded the number of contract workers eligible for overtime.