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In first days as president, Biden shows bold leadership

Photo by Doug Mills/Getty Images
By AFSCME Staff ·

In his first days on the job, President Joe Biden has taken swift executive action to protect and empower public service workers, strengthen public services and help working people. On his first day alone, he signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations that showed the kind of bold leadership our country needs now.

“Public service workers have worked tirelessly, stepping up beyond the call of duty throughout the pandemic, to keep their communities safe, healthy and strong,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement. “Finally, they have a champion in the White House who respects their work, honors their commitment, and takes bold steps to help them deliver the public services needed to beat the pandemic and get the economy moving.”

Biden’s executive orders include invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to boost production of materials necessary to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, such as personal protective equipment and vaccine vials; restoring collective bargaining and worker protections for public service workers serving in the federal government; and increasing support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“For months, AFSCME has called on the White House to invoke the DPA so workers risking their lives on the front lines of our communities have the proper personal protective equipment and resources they need to protect themselves on the job and treat the sick,” Saunders said. “Now, in less than two days since President Biden took office, help is on the way.”

Among Biden’s first actions in office were steps to aggressively strengthen the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and make workplaces safer from COVID through stronger federal safety guidelines; bolster protections for young immigrants and end former President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban; reenter the Paris climate accords and revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline; extend a federal moratorium on evictions; and promote a $15 minimum wage for federal workers and contractors.

His executive order to increase access to SNAP benefits and other vital programs means that millions of families may no longer have to choose between paying their bills and putting food on the table. He also asked the U.S. Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions, including those that expose them to the coronavirus, may still receive unemployment insurance. More recently, he ordered the Justice Department to phase out its contracts with private prisons, a goal long supported by our union.

“With these actions and others, President Biden is showing bold leadership, reminding us why elections matter,” Saunders said. “Now, it is time for Congress to follow this example by shoring up public services, delivering aid to our communities and taking additional steps to help working people survive this devastating pandemic.”

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