Sharon Block served in the Obama Administration as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Labor and Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor. In February, she will become the Executive Director of Harvard University’s Labor and Worklife Program. Chris Lu served in the Obama administration as the Deputy Secretary of Labor, and is now a Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia Miller Center. This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post.
As former political appointees in the Obama administration’s Labor Department, we can think of few areas where we are in agreement with Donald Trump. In fact, we have fundamental differences with him about how to build an economy that works for everyone.
Yet, we share his belief that government needs to do more to lift up American workers. If the new president is interested in delivering on his promise of creating jobs and growing wages for workers, there’s an executive order already in place that he should support.
Every year, the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on procurement contracts. By some estimates, one quarter of all American workers are employed by a federal contractor — that’s millions of families whose livelihoods are connected to the federal procurement system.
In 2014, Barack Obama signed an executive order called “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” that was premised on two fundamental principles: doing business with the federal government is a privilege, not a right; and taxpayer money should only go to companies that are abiding by the laws that protect American workers. Under the Obama executive order, the federal government would give contracts only to companies that pay their workers the wages they’ve earned, protect the health and safety of employees, and prohibit discriminatory practices.