The Biden administration’s task force on organized labor recently released a report outlining steps to promote unionization amongst private and public sector employees and to strengthen labor unions. The Task Force on Worker Organization was created by executive order in April to enact policies for federal agencies and contractors that encourage unionization and to model best practices for private and public sector employers. It is co-chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
The report listed 70 different policy proposals, many of which would make it easier for federal employees and employees of federal contractors to unionize. For example, one proposal includes allowing union workers to have access to federal employees on federal property. Another directs the Department of Defense to allow contractors to recover the costs of shop stewards, labor management committees, employee publications, and other related activities under cost reimbursable contracts. Other proposals include giving preferences in federal grant and loan programs to employers who have strong labor standards and prohibiting employers from using federal contract money on anti-union activities.
The report also claims that most Americans have a favorable view of unions and would vote to join a union if given the option. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that only 10.3 percent of the workforce belonged to a union in 2021, the lowest number in decades. In fact, a mere 6.1 percent of private sector employees belonged to unions – an all-time low.
Business groups have criticized the report as “pro-union propaganda” and evidence of pro-union allies being entrenched in the Biden administration. Business groups also argue that union strikes and work stoppages could further aggravate current economic challenges such as supply chain issues and inflation.
President Biden has promised to be the most “pro-union president in history.” This report is an example of unprecedented executive branch intervention into labor affairs to help deliver on this promise. Employers should remain alert as more pro-union policies that could render them susceptible to union organizing may be on the horizon from the Biden administration.