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100 Days of Helping Workers

Biden's first 100 days have included a whirlwind of action to support unions and working people

Brian Young's picture
Apr 29, 2021

Thursday, April 29th marked the 100th day that Joe Biden has been President of the United States. The first 100 days have been used as a benchmark since President Franklin Roosevelt on how successful the new President is in getting things done right away. Roosevelt first used the term to explain all of the legislation he got passed in 1933 to deal with the Great Depression, including many of his most famous New Deal policies. Since then, the phrase has stuck, and the media uses it as a barometer of how well the President has started their term.

For working people, the Biden Presidency has been a complete 180 from Trump’s. Gone are the tweets in the middle of the night and the self-aggrandizing press conferences. These were replaced by a President who is focused on getting the country vaccinated and back to work and a President who talks to union leaders instead of fighting with them. Below is a list of some of the biggest accomplishments for workers that President Biden has made in his first 100 days in office.

Led the vaccine rollout- When Biden first took office, he pledged that by the 100-day mark 100 million people would have received the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC the Biden administration, with the help of state and local governments, shattered that goal by getting 235 million shots in arms in just 100 days.

Hiring’s and Firing’s

Fired Peter Robb- Robb was the anti-union general counsel that Trump appointed to lead the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Traditionally the general counsel is tasked with prosecuting cases against bad employers, but Robb used the position to go after unions and union-friendly rules. Robb was fired within hours of Biden taking office.

Appointed Peter Ohr Acting NLRB General Counsel and Jennifer Abruzzo to be the permanent General Counsel- After firing Robb, Biden made Ohr, a longtime regional director, the acting NLRB General Counsel. Ohr has since begun to undo many of the Trump-era regulations that the union-busters Trump appointed to put in. Biden has since nominated Jennifer Abruzzo, the Special Counsel for Strategic Initiatives for the Communications Workers of America, to become the permanent replacement. Abruzzo will have a hearing before the Senate during the first week in May.

Appointed Marty Walsh Labor Secretary and Julie Su to be his Deputy- Walsh, the former Mayor of Boston, was previously a union leader with Laborers Local 223 and the head of the Metropolitan Building Trades. Walsh is the first union leader to lead the department in more than half a century. Walsh has hit the ground running, doing interviews across the country to sell Biden’s huge infrastructure plan. Biden also selected Julie Su as the Deputy Labor Secretary. Su ran the California version of the Department of Labor and has a long history of advocating for workers' rights, especially immigrant and trafficked workers.

Biden Fires More Trumpers in US DOL- Early in his first weeks in office, Biden issued an ultimatum to the 10 anti-union members of the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), resign, or be fired. Within hours, eight had resigned and the final two were removed from office. With these members removed federal unions were once again able to get a fair shake in front of the FSIP, after four years where the government won 90% of the cases that came before the panel.

Biden Picks an IBEW Leader for the TVA Board- Robert “Bobby” Klein the retired 10th District International Vice President of the IBEW was selected to serve a five-year term as a member of the Board of Directors for the Tennessee Valley Authority, a government-owned utility that provides electricity to nearly 10 million Americans in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia. The TVA employs more than 2,500 IBEW members.

New Appointments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)- The commission, which is tasked with ensuring that all workers get a fair shake regardless of race, gender, religion, etc., got two new appointments in Charlotte Burrows, a longtime civil right and immigrant activists, and Jocelyn Samuels, who has worked for years on policies to attain equality for sexual and gender minorities.

Made a union attorney Chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority- Ernest Dubster, a union attorney, the former legislative counsel for the AFL-CIO, and a law professor who teaches collective bargaining and arbitration was appointed Chairman of the Federal Labor Relation Authority (FLRA) which deals with disputes between government unions and agencies.

Selected a Steelworker to Lead OSHA- After four years of whittling away OSHA, Biden appointed James Fredrick to lead the agency. Fredrick worked for 25 years for the United Steelworkers health, safety, and environment department before leaving in 2019 to become a safety consultant.

Picked Jessica Looman to Lead the Wage and Hour Division- Looman, who was the Executive Director of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council and the general counsel to the Laborers District Council in Minnesota and North Dakota, was selected to lead the division that ensures employers are paying their workers the proper wages, including meeting minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Picked a Teacher to Run the Education Department- During the campaign, Biden promised to put a teacher in to lead the Education Department after Betsy DeVos. He did this when he appointed Miguel Cardona to lead the department. Cardona was the former education commissioner in Connecticut and had worked as an elementary school teacher, principal, district administrator, and deputy superintendent.

Executive Orders

Executive Order to Create a $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors- Biden has issued an order for all federal contractors to be paid at least $15 an hour by March of 2022, meaning that hundreds of thousands of workers will get raises in the next year. Biden’s order also eliminates the tipped minimum wage and the disability minimum wage for federal contractors.

Creates a Task Force to Promote Organizing- Biden signed an executive order to create the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. This group will have 180 days to come up with recommendations on what he can do to use federal policies and programs, and what changes need to be made, to promote organizing and collective bargaining. The group will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Allows Unions at the Department of Defense- In January of 2020, Trump signed an Executive Order allowing the Defense Secretary the power to take away union rights for anyone working at the Department of Defense (DoD). While not used during Trump’s time in office, Biden signed an Executive Order repealing that power and ensuring that civilian staff’s bargaining rights are not infringed on by the DoD.

Ordered OSHA to Create a COVID Safety Standard- After ten months of pushing Trump to create a safety standard, on Biden’s first day in office he directed OSHA to create the standard to keep workers safe on the job.

Strengthen Buy American- Biden issued an order to direct the federal government to strengthen their Buy American rules by requiring more of the product be made in the US, cut red tape for buying these items, and made it easier for small and mid-sized American companies to win bids.

Allow Federal Unions to Bargain Again- Biden ordered agencies to begin bargaining over permissible, non-mandatory subjects of bargaining and ordered agencies to remove immediately anti-union provisions that Trump forced them to put into contracts, including one that kicked unions out of offices that were on federal property.

Instituted a Federal Mask Mandate When Traveling on Planes or Trains-

Bills Passed or Proposed

American Rescue Plan- Also known as the stimulus, this $1.9 trillion bill included money for protecting public health, like funding testing, contact tracing, and PPE, including increasing domestic production of PPE. It gave $200 million to the Labor Department to allow OSHA to enforce safety rules in high-risk jobs like meatpacking plants. It also provided billions in money for state and local governments to avoid layoffs and for schools to put in safety procedures so that they can safely reopen. The bill also extends unemployment, gave Americans $1,400 checks, and increased the tax credits for parents with children under the age of 18. Perhaps the most important thing that the bill did for workers were shoring up multi-employer pensions, something that many unions have been fighting to get done for years. This money will ensure that retirees continue to get their full benefits from their pensions.

Biden Creates Offshore Wind Zone- Biden and the Interior Department approved a plan to create an offshore wind zone between the New Jersey and Long Island coast.  “The men and women of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are ready to get to work building America and its economy back better, expanding carbon-pollution free power through carbon capture, renewables, storage, and transmission; leveraging existing resources like nuclear; and electrifying other sectors like transportation,” IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said following Biden’s announcement last week of a bold set of actions on climate change and creating new unionized jobs in the renewable energy industry. In addition to the American Jobs Plan, this part of his infrastructure proposal calls for the domestic manufacturing and installation of 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes, which would create 44,000 jobs in development and construction and 33,000 more jobs in supporting sectors within the next 10 years.

American Jobs Plan- This massive infrastructure plan has been proposed by Biden and would invest trillions into infrastructure from building a new electric grid and national car charging network, to expanding affordable high-speed broadband to every American, to repaving roads, fixing bridges, and creating a healthcare infrastructure to care for elderly Americans. The proposal is currently being written and the House is expected to take a vote on it by the Fourth of July.

Statements Supporting Unions

Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act- Biden has been one of the biggest advocates for getting the PRO Act passed. Within his first month, Biden met with leaders of some of the most important unions to discuss what was needed to get the PRO Act and the American Jobs Plan passed. Biden then issued a statement two weeks later encouraging Congress to pass the PRO Act. In that statement Biden said “The Administration strongly encourages the House to pass H.R. 842 (PRO Act) and looks forward to working with the Congress to enact this critical legislation that safeguards workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively,” said Biden. “The PRO Act will strengthen our democracy and advance dignity in the workplace.”

He even included a push for the PRO Act in his speech to a Joint Session of the Congress on April 28th.

Supporting the Amazon Workers Organizing Campaign- For the first time since President Harry Truman, a sitting President issued a statement in support of workers who were organizing. The video was directed at both the workers and Amazon, who he pushed to stop their intimidation tactics. “It’s not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union. But let me be even more clear: it’s not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers – full stop.” Biden went on to say “there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda. No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences."

Including Union in Public Statements- In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden outlined his major plans for recovery and moving America forward: American Jobs Plan, American Families Plan, and of course the American Rescue Plan, which he signed in March. One word kept repeating: jobs. In a moment that was reportedly unscripted, the 46th President name-dropped the largest energy industry union in the world, I.B.E.W., representing about 775,000 electrical workers in the United States and Canada. “Electrical workers, IBEW members, installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own the electric car market.”

Biden also reaffirmed his commitment to signing the PRO Act and urged Congress to pass the worker rights’ bill. There are currently 47 co-sponsors and 53 holdouts, including 3 Democrats, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.

Between his statements and legislative proposals, Biden is on his way to fulfilling his campaign promises to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and electricity grids, promote domestic energy security, and create new jobs in domestic manufacturing and installations, particularly of electric vehicle charging stations along the Interstate Highway System. The electrical vehicle (EV) industry is expected to expand ten-fold over the next decade on its way to becoming the most common type of automobile sold in the world by 2040.

This is a huge change from Trump who only spoke about unions when he was in a fight with a union leader or telling members to stop paying their dues.

Dan Hinton contributed to this story.

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