Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama to Act on Labor Rules, Create Middle Class Task Force

By Roger Runningen

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama today will issue executive orders to reinforce the rights of organized labor, and he’ll establish a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden to raise middle-class living standards.

Obama will overturn rules of former President George W. Bush to reestablish rights to form a labor union or engage in collective bargaining, said Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

“It tells workers at federal contractors that the right to organize will be protected and that lawbreaking on the part of their employer will not be tolerated,” Cashen said.

Obama is appointing Biden to head the task force of Cabinet officials, business, labor and advocacy groups to ensure that policies and legislation help increase the living standards of the middle class, Biden’s office said in a statement

“Over the last 100 years the middle class was built on the back of organized labor,” Biden said in a CNBC interview yesterday. “In bad economic times they’re hurting very, very badly.”

Biden said the task force will focus on policies on everything from “retirement savings to college education to compatible work and raising your children.”

A government report today showed that the economy contracted at a 3.8 percent annual pace in the final three months of last year, the most since 1982. Retailers and manufacturers, from Starbucks Corp. to Boeing Co., have slashed payrolls and cut production. Companies cut 524,000 workers in December, bringing total job cuts for last year to almost 2.6 million.

Obama’s executive orders are aimed at reversing what labor critics regard as anti-union steps of the Bush administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: January 30, 2009 09:18 EST

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