President Biden adopts steps for promoting union membership.
The White House on Monday released a report outlining several dozen steps it intends to take to promote union membership and collective bargaining among both public and private sector employees.
The report is the product of a task force that President Biden created through an executive order in April. A White House statement said the president had accepted the task force’s nearly 70 recommendations.
Many of the steps would make it easier for federal workers and employees of contractors to unionize, including ensuring that union organizers have access to employees on federal property, which does not always happen today.
The report also recommends creating preferences in federal grant and loan programs for employers who have strong labor standards, preventing employers from spending federal contract money on anti-union campaigns and making employees aware of their organizing rights.
When the task force was created, some White House officials indicated that they supported considering labor union membership as a factor in awarding government contracts, but the task force recommendations generally did not emphasize this approach.
Under federal procurement law, the government generally cannot deny contracts to companies it deems hostile to labor unions. But it may be able to consider a company’s posture toward unions as a factor in certain narrow cases — for example, when labor strife resulting from an aggressive anti-union campaign could substantially delay the provision of some important good or service.
The executive order Mr. Biden signed creating the task force required it to submit recommendations within 180 days, at which point the president would review them.
One key premise of the task force was that the National Labor Relations Act, the 1935 law that protects federal labor rights, explicitly encourage collective bargaining, and yet, according to the Biden White House, no previous administration had explored ways that the executive branch could do so systematically.
The ambition of the task force was twofold: to enact policies for federal agencies and contractors that encourage unionization and to model best practices for employers in the public and private sectors.
The president’s task force will submit a second report describing progress on its recommendations and proposing additional ones in six months.
Union officials and labor experts consider Mr. Biden to be among the most pro-labor presidents ever. He moved quickly to oust Trump appointees viewed as unsympathetic to labor and to undo Trump-era rules that weakened protections for workers, and signed legislation that secured tens of billions of dollars to stabilize union pension plans.
Mr. Biden has occasionally used his bully pulpit to urge employers not to undermine workers’ labor rights or bargaining positions, as when he warned against coercing workers who were weighing unionizing during a prominent union election at Amazon last year. He later called Kellogg’s plan to permanently replace striking workers “an existential attack” on its union members.
Last week, Mr. Biden signed an executive order requiring so-called project labor agreements — agreements between construction unions and contractors that set wages and working conditions — on federal construction projects worth more than $35 million, a move that the White House estimates could affect nearly 200,000 workers. He had previously signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 per hour from $10.95.
But despite Mr. Biden’s backing, and polls showing widespread public support for unions, the rate of union membership nationwide remains stuck at a mere 10 percent, its lowest in decades.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, which Mr. Biden supports, would make it easier to unionize by preventing companies from holding mandatory anti-union meetings and imposing financial penalties on employers that retaliate against workers seeking to unionize. It passed the House in March but remains a long shot in the Senate. Democrats may seek to pass some of its provisions along party lines this year.