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Biden Moves on Several Fronts to Turn Federal Labor Law in Favor of Organizing

May 7, 2021

By Michael Burns, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

As EPTW has previously stated, President Biden is not just a pro-labor supporter in order to get their election endorsement. He is reportedly a true believer.

Last week, President Biden issued a new Executive Order (EO) for all government agencies to review their policies to turn them toward supporting labor organization. This directive would initially and primarily impact government contractors that must comply with executive branch orders.

The EO establishes a Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment that will be Chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and Vice Chaired by Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. The Task Force will bring together various federal agencies to identify agency branch policies, practices, and programs that could be applied to promote this Administration’s policy of worker organizing and collective bargaining. The Task Force is also charged with applying existing law and policy into areas of the country “with hostile labor laws” and “hard-to-organize industries.”  Michigan (along with 26 other states) would be considered one of those hostile areas due to its Right to Work law. This Task Force will be recommending changes to law and regulations that they believe impedes Big Labor’s organizing objectives.

The Task Force will also look at existing statutes and regulations that it will recommend changes to in order to be more effective in supporting worker organizing and collective bargaining. This would start with passage of the Protecting the Rights to Organize (PRO) act.

Passing of the Protecting the Rights to Organize (PRO) act would require both the House and the Senate to pass the bills before President Biden could sign that into law. However, he does not have to wait for congressional approval to issue Executive Orders.

The Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet outlining this new EO cites that up to 60 million workers would join a union if given the chance. Though today, only 16 million or just under 11% of the workforce belong to a union. The DOL “Fact Sheet” points to technological developments and the “failure to modernize federal organizing and labor-management relations laws” that have made organizing” exceedingly difficult over the past decades.”

The DOL fact sheet notes that the original National Labor Relations Act (1935) encourages organizing and collective bargaining. Not commented on in this release was the fact the Labor Management Relations Act (1947) states that employees have the right to not join a union. This is also the essence of state Right to Work laws. One item in the proposed PRO act legislation that is under consideration by Congress is to set up a federal law that would work to repeal state Right to Work laws.

Specifically, the Task Force will:

  1. Lead by example which means ensuring the federal government is a model employer towards encouraging worker organizing.
  2. Facilitate worker organizing by organizing all of government toward putting in place polices programs and practices to provide opportunities for worker union organization and collective bargaining.
  3. Increase worker power in underserved communities. This focusses on identifying local restrictive labor laws (read repeal Right to Work).
  4. Increase union membership.

As this new initiative develops into hard action by government agencies, unions, and worker advocates this will be the start a full court press against employers who believe being free of third party intervention (unions) is better for their workforce than a having an organization (labor union) that creates an adversarial relationship designed to pit workers against their employers.

ASE has always believed in and promoted paying to market (fairly), regularly and seriously communicating with employees about their concerns (engagement surveys and positive employer-employee policies and practices), and educating supervisors and managers on the right things to do and the what to avoid doing that may result in union organizing.

ASE’s services and resources are in place to provide employers what they need to make third party intervention difficult, if not impossible.

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