“When I think of climate change, the word I think about is ‘jobs’…Good-paying union jobs that’ll put Americans to work.” That statement announced a key part of Joe Biden’s climate plan: increasing labor force opportunities.
Creating jobs for Americans is of vital importance, particularly as our country struggles to come back from the coronavirus recession. And the energy sector shows incredible promise for creating American jobs as we continue to find new ways to provide clean, renewable energy.
But Biden’s focus on specifically union jobs causes concern. Unions have provided many benefits to their members over the years, but they can also place unnecessary burdens upon companies and individuals who may not want to to join unions. Unions are dead set against the kinds of flexible work that are attracting people. This includes such flexible work arrangements as contract work and the remote work, which has received a boost from the pandemic.
In California, unions have already used their clout to pressure lawmakers into passing Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), a law that severely restricts the freedom and opportunities of thousands of workers in the state. While Californian lawmakers have slowly recognized the damage this bill has caused and have created exemptions for many professions, many affected workers lack the ability to get lawmakers’ attention and continue to suffer.
The PRO Act, a nationwide version of AB5 that Biden and Senator Kamala Harris openly support, is even worse. Again focused on creating union jobs, this bill does not have any exemptions and would subject all Americans to stringent laws regarding contract work and more.
Unions historically have their place, but individuals shouldn’t be bullied into joining the ranks. Instead, unions should work to provide benefits for members that will actually entice individuals to join while doing away with the simple seniority ranking that turns a blind eye to actual quality of work. If they are willing to change, unions could provide a certain type of “certification” which shows that their members will provide quality work for their customers. These types of benefits would surely provide many Americans with reasons to join the ranks.
In the meantime, however, the Biden administration should focus on simply providing more job opportunities to Americans, without attaching union strings to these efforts. The clean energy sector has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years and will certainly continue to grow and create job opportunities for American workers. But these workers should have the choice of whether or not union membership is something they desire.