President Barack Obama is marking the Labor Day holiday in the United States Monday by requiring paid sick leave for 300,000 employees of federal contractors.
Obama, a Democrat in his last 16 months in office, has been stymied by opposition to several of his labor proposals by the Republican-controlled Congress.
However, at a Boston rally for union workers Obama said he had signed an executive order aboard Air Force One as he flew to the event that authorizes up to seven paid sick leave days a year, starting in 2017, for those working for companies with federal government contracts.
The sick leave would let the workers care for themselves or other family members, such as a child, parent or spouse.
Obama said Republicans have waged a "constant attack on working Americans." He said the United States is the world's only advanced economy that does not guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave.
Many U.S. employees provide such benefits to their workers, but about 44 million private sector workers, about 40 percent of the country's work force and many of them low-wage personnel, do not have access to paid sick leave.
The U.S. leader renewed his call for Congress to enact legislation requiring all employers with 15 or more workers to offer seven paid sick leave days a year. However, with Congress soon facing contentious votes on the Iran nuclear accord and government spending for the fiscal year starting October 1, it is unlikely Obama's sick leave proposal will advance.
Vice President Joe Biden, considering whether to seek the Democratic presidential nomination to succeed Obama, made a robust appeal at a Pittsburgh labor rally to shrink income inequality in the U.S. by changing the country's tax code he said favored the rich.
Labor Day in the U.S. always falls on the first Monday in September, a creation of the country's labor movement and a salute to U.S. workers and their contributions to the country's economic well-being. It has been a national holiday since 1894 and marks the unofficial end to summer in the country.
Most workers in the U.S. have the day off, with families gathering for backyard cookouts or trips to parks and beaches. Many American schools have already started their new academic years, but those that haven't typically reopen the day after Labor Day.