Only a month into his presidency, President Joe Biden has already taken some big actions to help working people. Some of them have gotten a lot of attention while others have been done quietly.
FIRINGS AND APPOINTMENTS
- Fired Peter Robb – Trump’s General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Peter Robb, is an anti-union attorney who was a key player in busting the PATCO union. He brought that same anti-union spirit to the NLRB. He tried to end neutrality agreements and make inflatable rats, like Scabby, illegal. Robb was fired just hours after Biden took the oath of office. After firing Robb, he also fired Robb’s deputy who had become the acting General Counsel.
- Appointed Peter Ohr Acting General Counsel – Ohr was a regional director for the NLRB before being promoted to Acting Counsel and has a long history of pro-worker decisions. He took immediate action to overturn some of Robb’s decisions, many of which will show up later on this list.
- Appointed building tradesman to lead DOL – Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, was previously a union leader with Laborers Local 223 and the head of the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council. His selection was praised for putting a union leader in charge of the Department of Labor.
- New Deputy Secretary of Labor – Biden appointed Julia Su, the current California Labor Secretary, to be Walsh’s second in command. Su has been recognized for her work with low wage and immigrant workers.
- Fired more Trumpers in the DOL – Biden’s quest to rid the government of Trump’s anti-union appointees continued with his decision to get rid of the 10 members of the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), which decides contract disputes between federal unions and the government. Trump stacked the panel with anti-union picks that included people from ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, and someone from a union-busting law firm. With these appointees on the board, the government won 90 percent of the cases that came before the FSIP. Biden gave the 10 appointees the chance to resign, which eight did. The other two were fired.
- New appointments to EEOC – Biden promoted Charlotte Burrows and Jocelyn Samuels to serve as chair and vice-chair on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Burrows has a long history of fighting for civil rights and working with immigrant communities. Samuels has worked for years on policies to attain equality for sexual and gender minorities.
- Made a union attorney FLRA chairman – Biden appointed Ernest Dubster to be the chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) which oversees disputes between the federal government and federal unions. Dubster previously worked as a union attorney, legislative counsel for the AFL-CIO and law professor teaching collective bargaining and arbitration.
- Selected steelworker to lead OSHA – Leading the Safety Department is James Fredrick, who worked for 25 years in the United Steelworkers’ health, safety and environment department.
- Picked tradeswoman to lead Wage and Hour Division – Biden picked Jessica Looman to lead the DOL’s Wage and Hour division. Looman was executive director of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, previously worked as general counsel for the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota, and also served as deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
- Picked a Teacher to run the Education Department – After four years of Betsy DeVos, Biden fulfilled that promise for a teacher to head Education with the selection of Miguel Cardona, the former education commissioner for Connecticut who worked as an elementary school teacher, principal and deputy superintendent before becoming state education commissioner. His pick was praised by teachers’ unions.
- Repealed union-busting executive orders – The executive orders, signed by Trump in 2018, kicked unions out of their offices in federal buildings, limited union release time, and instituted one-sided contracts on a number of agencies. Biden repealed all of them on his second day in office.
- Ordered OSHA to create a Covid safety standard – Unions fought for a Covid safety standard for nearly a year, with the AFL-CIO even suing Trump to create one. On Day 1, Biden signed an executive order that directed OSHA to put a standard in place. This will not only create a uniform standard for safety during COVID-19 pandemic, it will also provide workers with a new avenue to protect themselves from bosses who refuse to put proper safety procedures in place.
- Strengthened ‘Buy American’ provisions – Five days into office, Biden signed an executive order directing the federal government to strengthen its Buy American standards, requiring more of the product to be made in the USA, cutting red tape for buying these items, and making it easier for new small and medium-sized manufacturers to get federal contracts. The government spends about $600 billion a year on American-made products and is expected to add another $400 billion as part of Biden’s Build Back Better program.
- Ordered a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors – Biden signed an executive order directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to establish a $15 minimum wage for all federal contractors.
- Allowed federal unions to bargain again – Biden signed an executive order directing agencies to “bargain over permissible, non-mandatory subjects of bargaining when contracts are up for negotiation,” giving federal unions the ability to have a voice on more issues than just the basic work rules and pay.
- Ordered an end to federal private prisons – Biden issued an order that the government stop contracting with private prisons, a for-profit venture that reduces wages and takes jobs from union corrections officers.
- Reinstated federal diversity and inclusion training – Biden repealed a Trump order that banned the use of federal funds for these trainings for federal workers and contractors, a decision that was supported by AFGE. “By revoking the previous administration’s order eliminating such trainings, President Biden is affirming his commitment to advancing equity across the federal government and providing everyone with an opportunity to reach their full potential,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said.
- Instituted a federal travel mask mandate – The mandate includes everyone who is flying, taking a train or a long-distance bus and provides much-needed backup after a number of videos went viral of flight attendants pleading with customers to wear a mask and being forced to kick them off flights for not wearing a mask.
- Signed order allowing workers to refuse dangerous work – Biden ordered the Department of Labor to issue a guidance clarifying that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that puts their health in danger, like exposure to COVID-19, and still qualify for unemployment insurance.
- Announced his support for the PRO Act – The Protecting the Right to Organize Act would amend decades-old Labor laws to give workers more power during disputes at work, add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize and grant hundreds of thousands of workers collective-bargaining rights they don’t currently have.
(Edited reprint from UCOMM Blog.)