On the eve of President Biden’s State of the Union address to the nation, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has released a summary of key accomplishments for labor delivered by President Biden and Congress. It outlines significant progress and gains for union workers in several areas, as reprinted below.
Protecting pensions: The American Rescue Plan included vitally needed relief for multiemployer pension plans that were facing insolvency.
• The program will provide an estimated $94 billion in assistance to more than 200 eligible plans that are severely underfunded, preventing pension cuts for 1.3 million Americans.
• These protections help promote the continued availability of multiemployer pensions for the 10 million Americans in these plans.
Creating infrastructure jobs with high labor standards: This landmark investment in our nation’s infrastructure creates good-paying union jobs for workers across the country.
• Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements ensure that these jobs come with fair pay.
• President Biden’s executive order implementing the law prioritizes “prevailing wages and the free and fair chance to join a union.”
Mandating project labor agreements: President Biden signed an executive order at a union training center requiring the use of Project Labor Agreements for federal construction projects over $35 million.
• Project labor agreements are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements that set standards for all workers on a project, which alleviates coordination challenges that can stymie progress.
• This order is estimated to cover $262 billion in federal government construction contracting and improve job quality for the nearly 200,000 workers on federal construction contracts.
Expanding quality apprenticeships: President Biden and Congress expanded apprenticeships and reversed efforts to weaken quality controls for apprenticeship programs.
• The bipartisan infrastructure law includes new funding for apprenticeships to create pipelines for workers into union jobs.
• President Biden repealed an executive order from President Trump that would have weakened apprenticeship standards with a new category of “Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs” that lacked the rigor of traditional registered apprenticeships.
Strengthening Buy American rules: New requirements will ensure that federal investments are carried out with American manufacturing and workers.
• President Biden signed an executive order to increase the domestic content requirements for federal procurement, and to strengthen domestic supply chains for critical products.
• The bipartisan infrastructure law includes comprehensive Buy American requirements for iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials.
Repealing anti-union executive orders: President Biden repealed several anti-union executive orders issued by President Trump that targeted federal employees.
• One of the repealed executive orders would have eliminated civil service protections for workers classified under a new “Schedule F”.
• Three other repealed executive orders had sharply limited the Official Time with which unions can represent workers, curtailed the collective bargaining process, and reduced protections against unwarranted discipline or termination.
Standing up for workers: When he came into office, President Biden signed an executive order stating that it is the policy of the federal government to, “encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.” Since then, President Biden and Congress have taken action to ensure that the laws on the books to protect workers are actually enforced on the job site.
• Marty Walsh, a longtime union member and leader, is now the Secretary of Labor.
• David Prouty and Gwynne Wilcox are now Members of the National Labor Relations Board, and NLRB has acted more strongly to protect workers under their leadership.
• President Biden fired the Trump-appointed General Counsel at the NLRB, Peter Robb, who used his position to attack workers and unions. The new General Counsel is Jennifer Abruzzo, who brings union experience to the role and is already taking action to reinvigorate NLRB enforcement of laws prohibiting unfair labor practices.
• The American Rescue Plan included $200 million in new funding for the agencies charged with enforcing worker protection laws, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Wage and Hour Division, and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.
Developing a comprehensive action plan to support workers: President Biden created the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which released a report providing 70 recommendations approved by President Biden that promote worker organizing and collective bargaining. These actions, all of which are consistent with laws already on the books, include the following:
• Making sure that workers know their rights to organize and bargain collectively.
• Doing more to protect workers against retaliation for organizing.
• Ensuring that federal contractors do not spend taxpayer dollars on anti-union campaigns.
• Using the Department of Labor to provide resources on the advantages of unionization, for the use of any agency, worker, or business seeking to communicate the benefits of worker organizing.