An Administration With a Union Label

During the 2020 campaign for president, Joe Biden repeatedly said, if elected, he would be the most pro-union president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If the first actions of the Biden-Harris administration are any indication, he is going to keep that promise.

Photo caption: Biden’s Secretary of Labor nominee, Marty Walsh, is a member of the Laborers’ Union and a UWUA supporter. He is pictured here, speaking as the head of the Boston Building Trades at a rally in support of MA Local 369 members during their successful 2005 strike.

Working closely with labor

Immediately after Biden won the election on November 3, his transition team began to work on reshaping the American economy to make sure that unions and their members are at the forefront of the economic recovery. Biden’s transition team worked closely with union leaders for input and ideas on how to implement this goal.

In January, the Biden-Harris team announced the nomination of Marty Walsh for Secretary of Labor. Walsh is a card-carrying member of the Laborors’ International Union and was a long-time labor leader before his election to mayor of Boston. Walsh’s long history in the labor movement sent a strong message that this administration is on the side of workers and their unions. When the nomination was announced, President Biden and Walsh jointly vowed to make union membership growth a priority.

The Biden-Harris team also selected Julie Su to be the Deputy Secretary of Labor. Su is the Secretary of Labor in California, where her work on immigrant workers’ rights, wage enforcement and cracking down on misclassification of workers as independent contractors are held up as a model for the nation. If confirmed Su will be the number two official at the Department of Labor (DOL). These will not be the last of the nominations to important posts in the DOL and elsewhere in the administration that will be filled from the ranks of organized labor and its supporters.

At the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which for the last four years has been focused on destroying union and workers’ rights, the Biden- Harris administration went into action immediately by firing the anti-union NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb within hours of swearing the oath of office. The next day, the Biden-Harris administration fired NLRB’s deputy general counsel, a well-known anti-union management lawyer before serving at the board (see pg. 16). The new administration’s willingness to take immediate action to rid the NLRB’s general counsel of union busters is another clear signal that this administration is willing to go to bat for the American worker.

Promoting pro-labor perspectives

The Biden-Harris administration has nominated or appointed several other pro-labor officials such as Sharon Block to a position on regulatory affairs, union endorsed Trade Representative nominee Karen Thai and union friendly economists Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey were appointed to serve on the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

The Biden-Harris administration has also issued a number of pro-labor executive orders to ensure collective-bargaining rights for federal employees; to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage for thousands of federal contract employees; an expansive Buy American plan for federal government purchases; and to instruct OSHA to investigate the need to issue more stringent COVID-19 worker protections.

Executive orders support UWUA members

The Biden administration also issued an executive order establishing the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization.

UWUA President Slevin applauded the establishment of the Interagency Working Group calling it a “meaningful and long overdue acknowledgement of the contributions coal plant workers and their families have had powering America and of the challenges these individuals face in the years ahead finding equivalent employment.”

President Biden is using his long-time close relationship with union leaders in shaping the economy of the future. A key part of that mission would be performed by fulfilling his campaign promise to form a cabinet-level working group that would focus solely on promoting union organizing and collective bargaining in the public and private sectors.

As the Biden-Harris administration moves forward, the UWUA will continue to work to ensure that the president continues to put unions and workers front and center in our nation’s plan to build back better.

— David Radtke, UWUA General Counsel