On Monday, April 26, 2021, the White House released a press briefing detailing the establishment of a new White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment (the “Task Force”). The Task Force, which the White House describes as a “whole-of-government” approach to empowering workers to organize and bargain with their employers, will be chaired by Vice President Harris and vice-chaired by newly appointed Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. The Task Force will include at least twenty cabinet members and heads of federal agencies.
Within 180 days – by October 23, 2021 – the Task Force must specifically issue two recommendations to the White House. First, the Task Force must identify which existing policies, programs, and practices can be used to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal government. Second, the Task Force must make recommendations for new policies or identify what regulatory/statutory changes are needed to achieve the Task Force’s four specific goals of: (i) leading by example by ensuring the federal government encourages worker organizing among its workforce; (ii) facilitating worker organizing nationwide, by mobilizing federal government policies to provide workers the opportunity to collectively bargain; (iii) increasing worker power in underserved communities by addressing challenges in jurisdictions with restrictive labor laws, in industries with heightened barriers to organization, and for women and people of color; and (iv) increasing union membership.
The establishment of the Task Force reinforces the Biden administration’s commitment to promoting workers’ rights, and Task Force activity will be important to monitor for a number of reasons. First, it is unclear how the Task Force will support or interact with the passage of the Protecting the Rights to Organize Act (the “PRO Act”), which would amend the National Labor Relations Act, and which is currently before the Senate after passing the House of Representatives in March 2021. Second, although the Task Force’s immediate mandate is to identify means in which the federal government can better promote organizing and collective bargaining within its own workforce, the Task Force’s policy recommendations and proposals could have broader implications for private employers as the Biden administration and House Democrats seek to limit states’ abilities to enact or enforce right-to-work laws. Particularly because some predict that the PRO Act may not pass the Senate in its current form, it is possible that some of the statutory recommendations arising out of the Task Force may find their way into future legislation or regulations impacting employers nationwide.