From today’s The American Prospect:
Earlier this month, the Biden administration delivered a road map for advancing American workers’ rights in its Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment report. Headed by Vice President Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and composed of officials from 20 federal agencies, the task force recommended dozens of actions the federal government should take to promote union organizing and collective-bargaining rights through executive action rather than legislation. The report signals how the administration intends to make good on its commitment to increase worker power to reduce inequality and grow the middle class.
Why executive action? After all, legislation is the way to cement gains for workers and their unions. And promoting collective bargaining is still a bedrock policy goal of the National Labor Relations Act, the 1935 law seen at the time as workers’ Magna Carta. But since then, anti-union amendments and court decisions have hobbled the rights guaranteed in the NLRA, often making the law a barrier, not an aid, to workers trying to exercise their right to freedom of association.
The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, passed by the House and pending in the Senate, would dramatically improve protections for workers who try to form unions. The task force report notes that support for unions runs high, both in the general public (68 percent) and especially among Black women (82 percent), Black men (80 percent) and Hispanics (75 percent). But now and for the foreseeable future, 41 U.S. senators who might represent less than 20 percent of the American population can block passage of the PRO Act—unless, as appears highly unlikely, there are 51 senators willing to scrap the filibuster.
Facing this reality, the only way for the Biden administration to amplify workers’ bargaining power is through executive orders, with the hope that they can later be codified in filibuster-proof legislation. This is how President Kennedy’s 1962 executive order granting collective-bargaining rights to federal employees became law under President Carter in 1978.
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