President Biden’s Impact on Labor
By Alex Pecevich, LCLG Director of Operations
I think we were all ready to see 2020 come to a close. This pandemic proved to be unwavering and indiscriminate. Everyone from small businesses to public schools experienced closure of some kind with many operations sadly forced to close their doors entirely. But where 2020 was bleak many are hoping that 2021 will provide an optimistic foundation for the years to come. One group in particular with these lofty expectations are labor unions. For those organizations that were lucky enough to have a worker’s union in place, it was their bargaining power and leverage that helped to counteract the furlough and mass layoffs that came with COVID protocols that so many others could not.
With the economic devastation that this pandemic provided, management began to place even more emphasis on their bottom line and workers started to see just how under-appreciated they truly were as hours were extended and benefits slashed. In a few cases the unions took it upon themselves to go on strike which halted manufacturing entirely and lead to pro labor negotiating decisions. But for many workers groups, a hold out strategy of not working and thus not getting paid, simply wasn’t an option. The noticeable shift in this labor/management dynamic brought about a moderate increase in union membership and Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University warns members that “Although the union membership numbers show some reasons for optimism, what they really show is how much work needs to be done,” she says. “Most workers don’t have straightforward access to union representation.” And the ongoing Amazon case in Alabama is just another example of the drastic measures that corporate management will take to avoid any inkling of unionization.
And that lack of representation is the foundation of the Biden administration’s pro union agenda. It starts with getting the right people to help steer this ship and Biden has already enacted major changes within his political cabinet. In a series of moves applauded by union groups, Biden nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a former union leader, to be his Secretary of Labor and, in his first two days in the White House, Biden fired Peter Robb, the Trump-appointed general counsel of the NLRB, as well as Robb’s deputy Alice Stock, after each refused to resign. This much needed change in leadership came as the direct result of Robb who sought to discourage efforts to organize and collectively bargain.
Biden’s pro union position has been further strengthened with his initiatives to hold corporations and executives personally accountable for interfering with organizing efforts and violating other labor laws. Biden has publicly and strongly endorsed supporting the Protecting the Right to Organize Act’s (PRO Act) provisions instituting financial penalties on companies that interfere with workers’ organizing efforts, including firing or otherwise retaliating against workers. This has never been more important than it is right now as COVID working restrictions have displaced and completely terminated hundreds of thousands of blue collar positions leaving a wake of disgruntled employees with no action for recourse.
At LCLG we are hoping to provide some solace to individuals that were terminated and subsequently forgotten about under the guise of corporate economic disparagement. With the help of this administration it is our belief that the parties meeting at the negotiation table will see themselves as equal contributors to the success of an organization. But let us not forget that it is still important for all workers to take a participatory interest in their rights by closely reviewing the terms of their contracts and not settling for unfair labor practices because they may result in termination. Just Last week, President Biden unveiled a historic legislative package designed to change the course of the pandemic, get students back to school, give families and businesses a bridge to an economic recovery, and invest in advancing racial equity. While these may seem like broad goals the importance of these issues is once again being discussed and that is a victory that shouldn’t be so easily discredited. If you would like to learn more about any of these available training’s please feel free to contact us at www.lemonidislaw.com