Biden creates task force to spur unionization of U.S. workforce

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President Biden is signing an executive order Monday to start an unprecedented, coordinated push by the federal government to encourage more workers to unionize.

Mr. Biden will create a White House “task force on worker organizing and empowerment” — led by Vice President Kamala Harris — to mobilize Cabinet agencies and other federal offices to help workers “organize and successfully bargain with their employers,” the White House said.

The administration’s statement cited a “steady decline” in union membership in the U.S., from more than 30% of the workforce in the 1950s to 10.8% in 2020.

“As the president has said: America was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class,” the White House said in its announcement. “American workers have faced increasing barriers to organizing and bargaining collectively with their employers.”

The task force will issue recommendations on how the administration can help workers join labor unions, whose members tend to vote Democratic, and to bargain collectively. It will recommend new policies to achieve the goals, including efforts to unionize more federal employees.

The initiative comes less than a month after Amazon defeated a move to unionize workers at its huge warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

“Widespread and deep economic inequality, stagnant real wages, and the shrinking of America’s middle class are all associated with the declining percentage of workers represented by unions,” the White House said. “In addition, lower union membership rates have exacerbated the pay gap for women and workers of color. The decline of union density has also weakened our democracy. Unions ensure workers’ voices are heard in their workplaces, communities and government.”

The administration has taken steps such as endorsing the Protecting the Rights to Organize (PRO) Act and other labor law reform bills.

Mr. Biden said during a climate summit last week that one of his prime climate goals in shifting the U.S. to a clean-energy economy is to create union jobs. He told world leaders of his desire to “keep the focus” of their plan on job growth “and for my country, at least, on union jobs to provide the ability to raise the economy.”

Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, spoke at the climate summit on Friday and said Mr. Biden’s climate plan “means above all, creating union jobs.”

“The current energy transition can be a win for the climate, and a win for jobs, as long as lawmakers commit to implementing labor protections that ensure new energy jobs are good union jobs,” Mr. Stephenson said.

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