In late April, President Biden signed an executive order establishing the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. The task force will be dedicated to mobilizing the federal government’s policies, programs, and practices to empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated, “The fight to strengthen working people’s freedoms on the job has never been more urgent, and President Biden is right to give this effort the resources and attention it demands. He understands that unionism is the single most effective tool we have for building a fairer economy and a more just society. Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Labor Secretary (Marty) Walsh, this task force will put organizing and collective bargaining at the center of the federal government — part of their steadfast commitment to worker empowerment. Of course, the most important thing we can do to empower workers is pass the PRO Act, and we look forward to working with the Biden administration to get the job done.”
The executive order directs the task force to make recommendations within the first 180 days on two issues: How can existing policies, programs, and practices be used to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal government; and, where are new policies, associated regulatory and statutory changes needed?
According to the text of the executive order, “President Biden and Vice President Harris have long championed workers’ rights. As the President has said: America was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class. Throughout our country’s history, unions have been the driving forces for advancements in workers’ rights and improved living standards for union and non-union workers. They have fought for higher wages, greater job security, safety and health laws, essential benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, and protections from discrimination and sexual harassment for millions of workers across the country. Sixteen million workers in the United States are union members or in a job that provides them union representation. More than six in ten of those workers are women and/or people of color. Union workers earn roughly 13 percent more than non-union workers on a similar job site. They also experience drastically lower rates of labor standards violations, like employers wage theft or workplace safety and health hazards.”
Also as cited in the text, “Despite the importance of unions to our economy and democracy, and nearly 60 million workers today saying they would join a union if given the chance, American workers have faced increasing barriers to organizing and bargaining collectively with their employers. Economic change in the United States and globally, technological developments, and the failure to modernize federal organizing and labor-management relations laws so they respond appropriately to the reality found in American workplaces have made worker organizing exceedingly difficult. The result has been a steady decline in union membership in the United States over past decades. In 2020, union members made up just 10.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, down from more than 30 percent in the 1950s.
“Widespread and deep economic inequality, stagnant real wages, and the shrinking of America’s middle class are all associated with the declining percentage of workers represented by unions,” the executive order continued. “In addition, lower union membership rates have exacerbated the pay gap for women and workers of color. The decline of union density has also weakened our democracy. Unions ensure workers’ voices are heard in their workplaces, communities, and government.”