The White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, announced it sent President Biden 70 “pro-worker” recommendations.
This effort stems from an April 2021 executive order, Presidential Executive Order 14025, establishing the task force, to serve the following purpose:
The Task Force and its members shall identify executive branch policies, practices, and programs that could be used, consistent with applicable law, to promote my Administration’s policy of support for worker power, worker organizing, and collective bargaining.
In this report to the President, there’s frequent mention of promoting “worker organizing” and “collective bargaining” for federal workers, public and private sector workers.
More prominently, page 30 suggests worker misclassification of employees as independent contractors is rampant and in need of urgent fixing. It states, “DOL should continue to prioritize addressing the misclassification of employees as independent contractors through a range of strategies, potentially including strategic enforcement, strategic partnerships with other agencies (e.g., the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Transportation, and state agencies), and guidance documents, research, and outreach/educational initiatives.”
Labor activists often downplay their goals, suggesting few will be affected. But they would like to see all non-unionized workers, including independent contractors, universally unionized. Recently, Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien shared with Boston Magazine, “I’d like to see everything unionized, not just those companies. Look, I think we can all agree that over the years, the independent contractor model has skirted a lot of wage and hour laws, and basically circumvents unionization. I’d love to see every single industry represented by a union.”
What do those “strategies” entail? High on their list is passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Page eight of the report mentions the PRO Act as a “worker empowerment” policy to be championed:
Worker empowerment has guided the development of our policies and how we prioritize them in Congress—starting with our vocal, consistent call for Congress to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. These bills would ensure more private-sector workers and many more public-sector workers nationwide have a genuine right to organize and bargain collectively.
Then-candidate Joe Biden regularly praised California Assembly Bill 5 and its federal companion bill, PRO Act. His campaign plan prominently featured labor priorities ranging from passing the aforementioned bill to addressing alleged worker misclassification.
Why the high approval for labor unions, despite shrinking participation? There’s a disconnect. And it’s attributed to the overwhelming pro-labor reporting by media outlets. Per the New York Times:
The high approval rating may be in part because of increased awareness of union activity thanks to media coverage of prominent organizing efforts. Much of the media coverage of recent union drives has focused on high-profile companies, Dr. Windham said.
Much to the chagrin of the Biden administration and news media, workers aren’t warming up to Big Labor proposals.
Overall, support for Big Labor policies, including the PRO Act, are unpopular across the board. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on union membership showing a decline in overall union workforce from 10.8% in 2020 to 10.3%in 2021 despite collective bargaining pushes and organizing efforts. And a majority of freelancers, including independent workers, self-identify as independent contractors—not employees.
Remember: Pro-labor doesn’t translate to pro-worker. Let’s hope the Biden administration gets the memo.