Following on his promises to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” President Joe Biden signed the Executive Order on Worker Organizing and Empowerment (“Executive Order”) on April 26, 2021, creating a task force whose purpose is to strengthen unions and make it easier for workers to unionize. Along with endorsing the Protecting the Rights to Organize Act in March, President Biden is affirmatively putting a heavy federal foot on the scale to empower unions and bolster declining union membership, both in the public and private sectors.
The Executive Order criticized the federal government for not having used its “full authority” to support unions and declared it necessary for the federal government to take a “comprehensive approach” to advancing union organizing and collective bargaining. Under these auspices, the Executive Order created the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment (“Task Force”), led by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, whose stated mission is to “mobilize the federal government’s policies, programs, and practices to empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers.” The Task Force’s mission also includes determining ways to “increase worker power” in areas of the country with “hostile” labor laws and marginalized workers (including women and people of color) and in industries that are difficult to organize or that are changing.
The Task Force will make recommendations within 180 days and will then be responsible for implementing recommendations approved by President Biden.
In the Fact Sheet accompanying the Executive Order, the White House stated that it believes that declining union membership has contributed to widespread and deep economic inequality, stagnant real wages, the shrinking of America’s middle class, a weakened democracy, and the exacerbation of the pay gap for women and workers of color.
While it is too early to tell what changes to labor law will materialize from the Task Force’s recommendations, one thing is certain: President Biden’s administration is determined to make unions more powerful in the coming years than they have ever been in U.S. history. Employers should ready themselves.