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On US Labor Day, Obama Adds Paid Sick Leave for Some Workers

President Barack Obama waves from Air Force One before departure at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, en route to Boston, where he will speak at the Greater Boston Labor Council, Labor Day Breakfast, Sept. 7, 2015.

President Barack Obama marked the Labor Day holiday in the United States Monday by ordering federal contractors to provide sick leave for 300,000 employees.

Obama told a rally in Boston for union workers that he signed the executive order because Republicans have waged a "constant attack on working Americans."

Obama said the U.S. is the world's only advanced economy that does not guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave. Many U.S. employees get such benefits. But about 44 million private sector workers, many of them low-wage workers, do not.

The sick leave would let the workers care for themselves or other family members who fall ill. The president's order authorizes companies contracted by the federal government to give their workers up to seven paid sick leave days a year starting in 2017.

Obama renewed his demand that Congress pass laws requiring all employers with 15 or more workers to offer seven paid sick leave days a year.

But some small business owners say that while the president's intentions are in the right place, they simply cannot afford to pay wages to people who cannot work.

Also on Labor Day Monday, Vice President Joe Biden told a steelworkers' union rally in Pittsburgh that Congress has to shrink income inequality by changing the U.S. tax code, which he says favors the rich.

The workers chanted "Run, Joe, Run" at Biden, who is considering a run for the White House next year.

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 already have started their new academic years, but those that haven't typically reopen the day after Labor Day.