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AP

White House Union Task Force Holds First Meeting

At the meeting, VP Harris says the attacks on unions have cost workers $200 Billion

Kris LaGrange's picture
May 17, 2021

In April, UCOMM reported on President Biden creating the first-ever White House Taskforce on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. The task force was created to find new ways for the White House to encourage union membership and organizing and is co-chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris. On Thursday, the group met for the first time.

In opening remarks, Harris emphasized the impact that declining union membership has had on American Workers. "American workers are losing $200 billion a year," she said. "So this impacts not only the quality of life of the American worker, this impacts the quality of life of all Americans because it impacts our economy. "And to the extent that we are interconnected — when our economy does well when the middle class does well — we all do well, which means unions must do well."

Her claim is backed up by a study from the Economic Policy Institute that found from 1979 to 2019 that the share of union membership fell from 27% to just 11.6% leading to increasing inequality and a large increase in CEO pay, while workers' wages have stagnated.

The task force includes Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, the vice-chair of the committee, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Interior Secretary Deb Halland, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and 17 other Cabinet Secretaries. It also includes heads of numerous federal agencies.

"The bottom line is that we believe when workers organize, our economy gets stronger," Harris said. "And right now, we need our economy to get stronger."

After Vice President Harris spoke, Labor Secretary Walsh spoke saying “Organized workers are good for our economy. There’s no denying that. If you look at the numbers, the numbers say that. And that’s something that’s really important. And the decline of union membership is a problem. And you can see the decline in the middle class as you see the decline in the union membership across our country for the last 50 or so years.”

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