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By Erin Rode
September 22, 2015
Caption : 300,000 workers will gain paid sick leave from new executive order.     

President Obama issued an executive order earlier this month requiring federal contractors to grant at least seven days of paid sick leave to their employees.

Obama discussed the order during an appearance on Labor Day, and called on Congress to expand paid sick leave to even more Americans by passing the Healthy Families Act, which would require employers with more than 15 employees to grant seven days of paid sick leave annually.

The speech occurred at a Boston breakfast and rally. Massachusetts has already enacted similar laws through a ballot vote; any employer in the state with over 11 employees must provide paid sick leave, even for part-time employees. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Senator Elizabeth Warren were also present at the event.

“[This executive order] builds on the growing momentum of people who are answering the call,” Obama said during the speech, mentioning that other cities and private companies have also made paid sick leave a mandate.

Obama’s executive order joins his growing agenda on labor—earlier this summer, the Department of Labor proposed an increase in the threshold on overtime pay, and Obama signed another order which raised the minimum wage for federal employees to $10.10 an hour.

Because the order only includes federal contract employees, paid sick leave will be granted to just 300,000 of the 44 million Americans without access to it. Any mandate for private sector employers to provide paid sick leave would need to be passed through Congress.

This could be difficult, given that the executive order has received heavy pushback from Republicans, who claim that the president has overstepped his authority. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups have threatened lawsuits over the use of executive orders to set labor mandates.

“Regrettably here, it’s become a partisan issue. Certain Republicans have said we can’t afford to do this. This is really remarkable when you view this issue of paid leave through the global lens. The Republican Party is really out of step with conservative governments around the world.” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

The White House hasn’t determined how much these new rules would cost, instead suggesting that the cost would be offset by higher worker retention rates.

“The benefits with respect to businesses will more than offset the costs and ultimately make them, as employers, more productive and more efficient and therefore more valued to the taxpayer,” said Cecelia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

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