President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Monday establishing a task force aimed at empowering workers to organize and bargain with their employers that will be chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris, the White House said in a news release.
The White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment will be vice-chaired by Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and will include more than 20 Cabinet members and heads of other federal agencies. It will aim to facilitate worker organizing across the country, increase worker power in underserved communities and increase union membership.
The move is the latest of several pro-union actions taken by the President, who pledged the night before Election Day to be the “most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” Biden often says unions “built the middle class,” and days after taking office signed an executive order restoring collective bargaining power to federal employees.
The order directs the task force to make a set of recommendations within 180 days on how existing policies, programs and practices can be used to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal government, and what new policies are needed to achieve the task force’s mission.
Biden strongly encouraged the Senate to pass the so-called “PRO Act,” a bill the President said would encourage unions and “dramatically enhance the power of workers to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.” The House passed the bill last month, and it is unclear whether the Senate, which is divided 50-50 Democrats and Republicans, will pass the bill.
Earlier this year Biden took an unusual step of issuing a presidential video backing the right to unionize of workers at an Amazon plant in Alabama and appeared to warn the online retail giant not to interfere. Amazon ultimately defeated the landmark union drive that would have established the company’s first US union.
The pro-union moves follow on campaign pledges from Biden and also come as the coronavirus pandemic has brought many workers rights issues to the forefront.
The task force is the latest high-profile assignment given to the vice president, who has also been tasked with overseeing diplomatic efforts with Central American countries to stem the flow of migrants to the US southern border.
Biden and Harris have worked to deepen their relationship since taking office and have spent five hours or more together per day in meetings at the White House, CNN has reported. Harris recently told CNN’s Dana Bash that she remains the last person in the room when big decisions are made.
Harris has also molded herself as increasingly pro-union. During a trip to New Hampshire last week, she toured an IBEW training facility. She has often said unions are the reason workers have the rights they have now, including the five-day work week.
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