The Economic Policy Institute submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of Labor in support of its proposed rule implementing Executive Order 13706, Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors. EPI estimates suggest that between 694,000 and 1,053,000 employees of federal contractors may directly benefit with additional paid sick leave, including an estimated 450,000 to 775,000 who currently receive no paid sick leave.
The federal contractor workforce is swelling in size, growing from an estimated 1.4 million in 2000 to nearly 2.0 million in 2015. The outsourcing of government work through federal contracts is often done in the name of cost saving, but savings that do occur are more likely to stem from the willingness and ability of private contractors to push down wages and benefits for employees below what they would receive in the public sector than greater efficiency. Mandating paid sick leave would be an important step in reversing this trend.
Paid sick leave is a key labor standard that too many American workers lack. Addressing this problem comprehensively will require legislation, but in the meantime it is wholly appropriate for the executive branch to use its power to set labor standards for federal contract employees that model how decent employers act. While this rule is not a comprehensive solution to our antiquated failure to provide paid sick leave to American employees, it will make life better for hundreds of thousands of contract employees and their families, across nearly every major sector of the U.S. economy.