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White House Announces Plan to Promote Federal Unions

An executive action will make it easier for feds to join a union

Brian Young's picture
Oct 20, 2021

On Wednesday, the White House announced two new moves to encourage federal workers to join a union. The new executive actions will focus on getting more of the 2.1 million employees of the federal government into a union. Currently, most federal workers are eligible to join one, but only about 20% of the workforce has actually gone through the process to become union members.

The announcement, which was made by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, will do two things. For new hires, the government will be required to educate applicants about unions during the hiring and onboarding process. Unions will also be given a chance to participate in new employee training sessions. For current employees, employers will need to communicate more clearly throughout the year about their collective bargaining rights and how to contact their unions.

These recommendations came after Harris and Walsh met with union leaders as part of the White House labor task force. Harris is the chair and Walsh is the vice chair of the group. When President Biden set up the task force it was given 180 days to come up with recommendations on steps the White House could take to promote union membership. Those 180 days were up at the end of September, so this looks like the first thing to come from the task force.

Biden Creates Task Force to Promote Unions

The Biden White House has made promoting unions a policy of the office. Over the last 50 years, union membership has decreased significantly, and the White House has said that that the drop has cost workers $200 billion a year in unrealized wages and benefits. Biden has said that he will be the most pro-union President in history but has been stymied in getting legislation passed by the deadlock in Congress, so an executive action like this is a welcome move, especially after Trump signed so many executive orders to take away unions power.

Trump to Federal Agencies: Restrict Unions

The move was praised by federal unions who hope that the new moves will push federal workers, especially those who are not informed of the union in their workplace, into signing up.

“For too long, there has been a concerted effort by corporations and wealthy individuals to prevent working people from organizing and bargaining collectively to better their working conditions and standard of living,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. “Indeed, in the past decades, we saw this fight play out inside our own federal government – with an attempt to undermine employees’ independent unions and corrupt the apolitical civil service. As workers across the country find their voices, exercise their power, and win transformational victories in a historic month of labor activism, we applaud the steps that the Biden administration is taking today to roll back attacks on labor unions, help federal employees understand their union rights, and support them in exercising those rights. AFGE thanks Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, and others on the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment for their excellent work on these issues and their unwavering support of American workers.”

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