Biden creates labor organizing and collective bargaining task force
President Joe Biden (D) signed the “Executive Order on Worker Organizing and Empowerment” on April 26, creating a task force related to public- and private-sector union organizing.
About the order
The executive order establishes a task force to “identify executive branch policies, practices, and programs that could be used, consistent with applicable law, to promote [the Biden Administration]’s policy of support for worker power, worker organizing, and collective bargaining.” The order states that the task force “also shall identify statutory, regulatory, or other changes that may be necessary to make policies, practices, and programs more effective means of supporting worker organizing and collective bargaining.”
The order asserts that “[i]n the past few decades, the Federal Government has not used its full authority to promote and implement [the National Labor Relations Act] policy of support for workers organizing unions and bargaining collectively with their employers.”
The task force has 180 days to submit recommendations “to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the public and private sectors, and to increase union density.”
Vice President Kamala Harris will chair the 24-member task force, with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh serving as vice chair.
The order revokes two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump (R): “Establishing the President’s National Council for the American Worker” (2018) and “Continuing the President’s National Council for the American Worker and the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board” (2020). The council and advisory board were set to terminate in September 2021.
According to a White House fact sheet on the order, Biden and Harris “believe that the decline of union membership is contributing to serious societal and economic problems in our country,” including “economic inequality, stagnant real wages, and the shrinking of America’s middle class.”
This was the 41st executive order Biden has signed during his time in office.
- Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said, “We commend President Biden for launching this task force to make it easier for workers to organize and join a union. As our nation continues to recover from this pandemic, ensuring that workers have a voice on the job to negotiate for fair wages, safer working conditions and better benefits will be key to building back better.”
- White House labor advisor Seth Harris said, “In the past we’ve had very good-faith efforts by some presidents to do individual things, like executive order and regulatory actions [to help unions]. The question is, what about a whole-of-government approach? We never sit down and think about what it would be like if the whole government was organized around the principle that worker organizing was a good thing and not a bad thing.”
- Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, said, “There is a huge gap between the number of working Americans who want to be represented by unions and have collective bargaining and the number who are in unions. It could make a very big difference in this space to have a president who uses the bully pulpit to make this a front-and-center preference.”
- U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), ranking Republican member on the House Education and Labor Committee, said the order “further solidified [Biden’s] cushy relationship with union bosses; the same people responsible for swindling workers’ hard-earned paychecks and pushing radical, unworkable policies that lead to lower economic growth.”
- National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix said, “This is yet another move by the Biden White House to give the president’s Big Labor political allies more power at the expense of the rights of rank-and-file workers who overwhelmingly have chosen not to affiliate or associate with a labor union.”
- Sean Higgins, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said, “President Biden seems to believe joining a union is an obligation that the federal government must prod workers to do. … This executive order is a harbinger of further aggressive sales tactics from this administration on behalf of its union allies.”
What we’re reading
- The Center Square, “New Hampshire workers petition U.S. Supreme Court over union dues,” May 5, 2021
- San Antonio Express-News, “Proposition B defeated by a narrow margin in San Antonio,” May 1, 2021
- The State Journal-Register, “AFSCME-backed bill paving way for restoring state jobs to union status passed by Senate,” April 30, 2021
The big picture
Number of relevant bills by state
We are currently tracking 92 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.
Number of relevant bills by current legislative status
Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)
Recent legislative actions
Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.
- Illinois HB2521: This bill would allow electronic signatures on petitions submitted for selecting an exclusive bargaining representative. It would allow certification elections to be conducted electronically. It would also prohibit an employer from promising or taking action against an employee for participating in a strike.
- Democratic sponsorship.
- Assigned to Senate Executive Committee May 4.
- Oregon SB580: This bill would amend the law’s definition of “employment relations” to include class size and caseload limits as mandatory collective bargaining subjects for school districts.
- Democratic sponsorship.
- Referred to House Business and Labor Committee May 4.
- Tennessee SJR0002: A proposed constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization.
- Republican sponsorship.
- Signed by speaker of the Senate May 3 and speaker of the House May 4.