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On July 9, President Biden issued a far-reaching, unprecedented Executive Order on Promoting Competition in America. The executive order covers a wide variety of issues, including lowering prescription drug prices, allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter at drug stores, banning excessive early termination fees regarding internet service and making it easier for individuals to get airline refunds. It does not appear the executive order will have any immediate impact, since it merely “encourages” federal agencies to adopt policies without mandating them to do so. Presumably, there will be opportunity for notice and comment as the agencies attempt to comply. 

Though the executive order does not appear to be aimed at the construction industry, there are three concerning issues that may apply to ABC members: 

•    Encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to ban or limit noncompete agreements
•    Encouraging the FTC to ban unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions that impede economic mobility 
•    Encouraging the FTC and U.S. Department of Justice to strengthen antitrust guidance to prevent employers from collaborating to suppress wages or reduce benefits by sharing wage and benefit information with one another.

ABC Vice President of Legislative and Political Affairs Kristen Swearingen released a statement as part of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace criticizing the president’s actions and the impact they would have on small businesses throughout the country.

“Today’s executive order claims to take on monopolies, increase worker economic mobility and help small businesses compete against larger companies, but it is completely at odds with the administration’s push to limit opportunities for workers and small businesses by supporting the PRO Act, which would force American workers to pay union dues against their will or lose their job, allow unions to attack companies for anti-competitive reasons, and eliminate contracting and franchising opportunities for small companies.

“The administration claims to be pro-worker choice and small business in this executive order but at the same time backs the PRO Act, which tips the scales in favor of large, unionized companies against small companies and consolidates union power and influence over the labor market. Whether its public sector teachers’ unions or private sector unions in protected industries, unions have fought against competition that could support consumer choice, employee choice and opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“Additionally, the PRO Act’s drastic restructuring of the nation’s labor laws and resulting economic upheaval would cost millions of American jobs and threaten vital supply chains, which would greatly diminish opportunities for workers.

“Businesses and workers across the country are slowly getting back on their feet after facing a financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but rewriting our nation’s labor laws solely to benefit Big Labor bosses would cause irreparable harm to our country’s economic recovery efforts.”

ABC staff is continuing to study the executive order and will provide further updates about it in Newsline.