People may agree or disagree with some of his actions and policies, but no one can reasonably question the fact that President Biden is taking seriously his promise to be the “strongest labor president you’ve ever had.”
As he told union leaders during his Labor Day address last September: “When Congress passed the 1935 Labor Relations Act, it didn’t just say you can have unions … It said that we, the government, should encourage unions and collective bargaining, making it easier.”
Biden explained why this is important. “Union members get higher wages, better benefits, like health insurance and paid leave, protections against discrimination and harassment, and a safer and healthier workplace,” he said.
“But there’s another reason — a basic American reason. Workers who join unions gain power — power over the decisions and the decision-makers that affect their lives. Workers’ voices are heard and heeded…. And it’s about dignity on the job.”
America’s antiquated laws continue to raise daunting hurdles for organizing campaigns. Corporations routinely exploit weaknesses in the regulatory framework that enable them to propagandize and intimidate their employees against choosing to join a union.
Reformers hope to eventually correct these flaws by passing the Protect the Right to Organize Act, commonly called the PRO Act, though pro-corporate interests have succeeded in blocking this path for now.
For the nearer term, Biden established a White House task force last April to come up with ideas on how to encourage unionization without going through the normal legislative process. Now, the task force has made nearly 70 initial recommendations that have been accepted by the administration.
These recommendations include, among other things, requiring federal contractors to allow union organizers access to work sites on federal property. The task force also recommends preferences in federal grant and loan programs for companies with strong labor standards, stopping federal contractors from using public funds to pay for anti-union campaigns, and making employees aware of their right to organize.
In the meantime, the president is fulfilling his pledge in other ways. Early in February, for example, he signed an executive order requiring project labor agreements on federal projects worth more than $35 million. Construction unions and contractors use these agreements to set standards on wages and working conditions. Biden previously raised the minimum wage for federal contractors from $10.50 an hour to $15 an hour.
While political and cultural divisions continue to afflict the nation, those who support the organizing rights of working people can agree on one thing: President Biden is making good on his promise to be a pro-union president.