Economy · June 18, 2022

Robert Reich (How Joe Biden Can Help Non-Congress Workers …)

How Joe Biden Can Help Non-Congress Workers

Did you know that Joe Biden can help American workers right now, even without Congress? He can sign three executive orders, which affect a fifth of the economy and transform the lives of millions of workers.

Biden made election promises in support of the workers. Here are 3 ways she can deliver on that promise.

First: require the federal government to contract only with unionized companies where possible. This would give workers more bargaining power in every sector, from healthcare to telecommunications, catering, technology and defense.


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In the last century, when I was secretary of labor, the Chamber of Commerce sued me for trying to do something similar. The Clinton administration had issued an executive order banning federal contracts with companies that permanently replaced striking workers. A federal court rejected it, ruling that the administration had not proven the executive order was necessary to save government money.

The way to ensure that this executive order holds up is to include proof that unionized companies save government money. And it’s not hard to do.

Unions can provide higher wages, but they have also been shown to offer higher productivity. And increased productivity saves the government money.

Secondly, discourage the breakup of trade unions. Biden may require federal contracts to go only to companies that are committed to remaining neutral in efforts to join the union.

Companies regularly use an arsenal of anti-union tactics. Some are blatantly illegal. A third of companies dismiss employees who try to form a union. They harass and intimidate their workers. About half threaten to shut down or cut wages and benefits.

Why should taxpayers subsidize companies that illegally reject trade unions?

Third, deny federal contracts to companies that violate labor laws. Biden may require bidders with federal contracts to disclose any labor violations within the past 3 years. This would only be the restoration of Obama’s executive order, which Trump has revoked.

Companies that break the law and harm workers shouldn’t be rewarded with profitable federal contracts.

A policy like this helps workers everywhere. One study found that when the Department of Labor announced penalties for violating safety standards, other companies in the industry improved their safety standards.

Taken together, these three executive orders will improve the lives of millions of Americans.

Make it happen, Joe.