Kamala Harris to Lead White House Task Force Encouraging Union Membership

Vice President Kamala Harris listens during a phone call with World Trade Organization General Dr. Okonjo-Iweala Thursday, March 11, 2021, in her West Wing Office of the White House.

By Published on April 27, 2021

The White House on Monday announced a new labor union task force, chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris, to encourage and promote union membership in the U.S.

The White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment will be comprised of several other top administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who will be the committee’s vice chairman, the administration announced. President Joe Biden was to sign an executive order formally creating the task force later in the day.

“The president and vice president believe that the decline of union membership is contributing to serious societal and economic problems in our country,” the White House said in the announcement. “Widespread and deep economic inequality, stagnant real wages, and the shrinking of America’s middle class are all associated with the declining percentage of workers represented by unions.”

“In addition, lower union membership rates have exacerbated the pay gap for women and workers of color,” the statement continued.

The Biden administration added that the decreasing number of union workers has “weakened our democracy.”

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Roughly 11% of American workers were members of a labor union as of January, compared to 20% in 1983, according to the Labor Department.

The task force’s main objectives are to increase union membership, address systemic barriers preventing more labor organizing, facilitate the formation of more unions, and improve the federal government’s treatment of workers.

The president’s executive order will ask the task force to make a set of recommendations within six months for implementing current policies and creating policies that will help achieve the objectives.

“The task force will be a historic effort to put the federal government’s policy of encouraging worker organizing and collective bargaining into action,” the White House said.

Biden notably has endorsed the union-friendly Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would upend existing labor law and make it easier for workers to form unions. The president’s infrastructure package, announced earlier this month, also includes a variety of pro-union programs.

 

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