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Biden-Harris report openly rewards unions for support

It’s a rare thing to see a politician openly and unashamedly reward his top political donors—that’s usually done behind closed doors—but we’re getting to witness this firsthand with the release of the Biden Administration’s report on ways to help unions increase their membership.

The report itself does little to disguise the administration’s political pandering to a massive special interest. Instead, it is clear from beginning to end that the goal of President Joe Biden—and of Vice President Kamala Harris, who ran the task force that produced the report—is to increase the number of dues paying union members. Left unsaid is that more union members would mean more money for unions, which they can then use to increase donations to their political allies, including Biden and Harris.

Unions delivered huge sums to Biden and other Democrats during the 2020 election. They donated $27.5 million to Biden’s campaign and groups directly supporting him, compared to $360,000 for the Trump campaign. And zooming out, Big Labor spent a massive $1.8 billion on politics during the 2020 election cycle, with almost all of that going to Democrats.

In a post-election spending article by OpenSecrets, a non-profit that “follows the money in politics,” the headline was: “Unions spent big to boost Biden. Will he return the favor?”

Clearly, with the release of this report, the answer to that question is unequivocally yes.

While the report claims to want to help “workers” realize their rights, there is no mention of a worker’s right not to join a union, the right to speak up for yourself, or the right to speak out against union corruption.

Ironically, the list of task force members and contributors does not include any workers. The report says the task force met with “dozens of unions, employers, worker advocacy organizations, academics, labor agency officials, business leaders, and other stakeholders and experts to gather information and suggestions.” Nary a worker in sight.

Meanwhile, the biggest targets for increased union organizing activity are federal government employees. The report lists a number of ways the administration hopes to coerce more federal employees into union membership, including sharing with union officials the names and email addresses of employees who are not union members.  

Federal employees do not have to join a union as a condition of employment, a right they’ve enjoyed longer than their state and local counterparts, who only recently were released from that obligation after the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME in 2018.

The underlying assumption of the recommendations in the report is that federal employees must not know they can join a union. The report recommends allowing unions more access to new employees in order to convince them of the benefits of belonging to a union. It is unclear if new employees will be told they do not have to join a union if they do not want to. The report also recommends federal agencies use taxpayer dollars to regularly send employees reminders that they can join a union.

The Biden-Harris report also wants to turn the Department of Labor into a pro-union shop that helps unions increase their membership in the public and private sectors. The report suggests turning the Department of Labor into a “resource center” that provides “materials on the advantages of union representation and collective bargaining.”

Union lobbyists and organizers, clearly frustrated with the Janus decision and their general inability to increase the rates of union membership in the private sector, have demanded that Democrats pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Even with Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and White House, they have not been able to achieve their legislative goals. Now, they’ve turned to Biden and asked him to use—misuse?—his executive authority to give them what they want.

With the recommendations in this report, and the administration’s efforts to begin to implement them, Biden is doing what was asked of him.

Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates is Senior Writer and Researcher with Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Suzanne worked as a journalist for the Associated Press, as Policy Director with the Yankee Institute, as a contributor for The Hartford Courant, and as a regular commentator for WNPR’s The Wheelhouse.