Biden Administration Offers Blueprint for Union GrowthHistorians in the News
tags: unions, labor history
The White House released a detailed blueprint Monday for how the federal government can work to increase union participation and strengthen workers’ right to organize in the absence of legislative actions, another sign of the Biden administration’s historic support for organized labor.
The 43-page report, produced by the White House’s Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, is a strikingly pro-union document, seeking to connect the history of union organizing in the United States to its importance for the country’s economic well-being.
“The Biden-Harris Administration believes that increasing worker organizing and empowerment is critical to growing the middle class, building an economy that puts workers first, and strengthening our democracy,” it begins.
The report comes at a time when union organizing in the United States is near a historic low, with just 10.3 percent of wage and salary workers belonging to a union in 2021, down threefold from a high in the 1950s. Just 6.1 percent of private-sector workers were members of unions.
“Like the rest of the Biden administration, this report shows nearly unprecedented attention to the demands of organized labor in the recent Democratic Party,” said Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island.
The task force, which was created by President Biden last April, includes most members of the Cabinet and is chaired by Vice President Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
Loomis, the University of Rhode Island professor, said the labor movement really needed the Pro Act “to facilitate successful organizing and reset the playing field between unions and employers,” but with its prospects nearly dead at the moment, the set of government actions proposed by the task force was perhaps the administration’s best shot at improving the climate for organizing.
“It’s a combination of long-standing union desires and forward-thinking ideas, such as the idea to establish a wildland firefighter workforce that firefighter unions could possibly organize,” he said. “Of course, much of it could be overturned by the next Republican administration, which is the problem with executive actions, but there’s not much one can do about that.”
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