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White House seeks to empower workers, establish federal government as model employer

The White House. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
By AFSCME Staff ·

President Joe Biden has already been called one of the most pro-worker presidents in American history. Now, early in its second year, his administration continues to show its deep commitment to empowering workers.

The White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, led by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, published a 43-page report on Monday with dozens of recommendations for empowering workers across the country and establishing federal agencies as a model for both public and private sector employers.

The nearly 70 recommendations – which federal agencies are expected to implement over the coming months – direct federal agencies to leverage federal funds and regulatory authority to address many of the obstacles that workers commonly face in the workplace. Such obstacles include employer threats and intimidation against workers exercising their rights; workers’ lack of awareness of their rights to organize and bargain collectively; workers’ difficulty in gaining access to union organizers at their workplaces; and more.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders praised the report, adding that our union looks forward “to working closely with the administration in the months ahead on implementation of these provisions.”

The report also seeks to position the federal government as a model employer with regard to its own workforce. Federal agencies are encouraged to offer unions more opportunities to communicate with new hires during onboarding, periodically inform bargaining unit employees of their legal rights under federal labor law and explore different methods to facilitate union communications with employees.

Some recommendations aimed at making sure that government contractors and grantees are encouraging workers to exercise their rights include:

At a time of rising worker activism across the country and rising union popularity, the report seems to answer the mood of a country that has awakened to the union difference. But it also shows that executive branch can only do so much on its own.

That’s why Congress must also act to make it easier for all workers to exercise their rights and organize to form strong unions.

Congress can help achieve this by passing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which would establish a minimum set of standards of collective bargaining that all states must provide public service workers, and the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would strengthen federal law to protect workers forming unions from employer attacks.

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