Washington Labor, riding high after quick wins with President Barack Obama, faces the harsh reality that the Democratic-controlled Congress will not find it easy to push more fiercely contested legislation to improve the status of workers or the unions trying to organize them.
Obama on Friday issued executive orders that union officials say will undo Bush administration policies favoring employers. Among the orders, federal contractors would be required to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change, and they would be prevented from receiving reimbursement for expenses meant to influence worker decisions on joining unions or engaging in collective bargaining.
A day earlier, the new president signed the first bill of his administration, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows more leeway for women and others seeking justice over pay discrimination.
But no one, including the Democrats who control Congress, are predicting that other labor rights priorities will sail through with the same speed as the Ledbetter bill. When asked what’s next on the labor agenda, Democratic leaders instead turn the conversation to bigger bills well beyond the scope of worker rights, such as the $819 billion economic stimulus plan.