Millions of Americans don’t remember ever living in a White House run by Big Labor. To accurately evaluate President Joe Biden, we will need to create new memories.
Biden, who had repeatedly promised on the campaign trail that he would be “the most pro union president you’ve seen”, has now broken ranks with his Democratic predecessors and governed like a man.
The 46th President fired Peter Robb (NLRB General Counsel) and replaced him with Jennifer Abruzzo, a former Communications Workers of America lawyer. The 46th president also announced that he had rescinded certain Trump-era federal civil service reforms. He stated, “It’s also the policy to the United States encourage union organizing, collective bargaining.”
Biden also announced three days later the establishment of the new Made in America Office within the White House. The day after that, he signed an order saying federal agencies “shall…apply and enforce the Davis-Bacon Act, prevailing wage requirements and benefit requirements” thus make government employees and contractors more wealthy at taxpayers’ expense. Marty Walsh of Laborers International Union of America, a former mayor of Boston was appointed secretary of labor. He also created a Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment headed by Kamala Harris, Vice President.
In February 2021, Biden took the step—”basically unprecedented in American history,” University of Rhode Island historian Erik Loomis later told Vox—of endorsing a specific workplace unionization effort, at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. (The last tally from Bessemer was 1,798 for and 738 against unionization.
US Rescue Plan March 2021 squandered $1.9 trillion in mostly government areas. These are places where unionization rates tend to be high. The bill included an unconditional $86 billion bailout of multi-employer pension fund funds. This was a Big Labor request that has nothing to do with COVID-19 relief.
“Biden is the most pro-union President since the New Deal,” The Washington PostAfter a thorough comparison of the presidential labor rhetoric, this was concluded April 20, 2021. But he was only getting started.
Another $1.2 trillion was spent by the federal government under the November 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This included a “Buy American” provision, which requires that materials used in law’s roads, bridges and rail projects be made primarily in the United States. Biden kept intact many Trump’s protectionist, labor-friendly trade and immigration policies.
A number of union leaders gathered under the AFL-CIO umbrella on Biden’s first anniversary to express their gratitude. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers president Lonnie R. Stevenson stated that Joe Biden promised to be the pro-union, most worker-friendly president of all time. “I can confidently say that President Biden’s actions match his words as he celebrates his first anniversary in office.”
Seafarers International Union President Michael Sacco praised Biden for supporting the 1920 Jones Act, a classic of concentrated-benefits, dispersed-costs protectionism that requires ships sailing between U.S. ports to be American-owned. Ernest A. Logan of American Federation of School Administrators called Biden the “Best Education president” and said that Biden is a braggart who boasts in speeches about how he sleeps with a teacher union member. Daniel E. Stepano (General President, Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association) summarized the current labor assessment by saying that Biden was “the most pro-union, proworker president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”
Are those what Americans and the relatively conservative Democratic Party wing that elevated Biden above his progressive rivals in 2020 primaries thought when voting for the Washington hand? It’s unlikely. It is unlikely.
Biden is not hiding his sympathy. Even though he spent half of his career in government, Biden has kept a blue-collar personality, with tall tales and regular-guy appearances. “My great-grandfather Blewitt…was a mining engineer, back in the days of the Molly Maguires,” the president said in his 2021 Labor Day remarks, referring to a controversial 19th century mining-union group in the Northeast. “Molly Maguires…they were a little tougher. After giving them some trouble, you were left on the doorstep in a bag.
The gap is large between nostalgic nostalgia for working-man struggles from yesteryear and 21st-century Democratic Party unionism, which tends to be largely white-collar. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in its annual report, February 20,22 shows that only 6 percent of the private sector workforce is currently unionized. That’s down from 17% in 1983 and 36% respectively in 1953. In contrast, the rate of unionization in the public sector was 34% in 2021. This is about the same level as over the past several decades. BLS reported that “the highest unionization rates” were among library workers, educators, and trainers. This is a clear indication that coal mining is not a viable option.
Biden is sure to try and reverse the long-term slide in private sector. He has been pushing for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would abolish “right to work” laws that prohibit unions from forcing nonmembers to pay dues in 27 states. But that bill, which also would classify millions of independent contractors as employees, is already dead on arrival in the 50–50 Senate during a midterm year when Democrats are likely to see steep losses.
Contemporary unionism is mainly an attempt to eliminate taxpayers from the negotiations between white-collar labor reps and their lawyer/politician supporters. The tax base is treated by teachers, police officers, civil-service bureaucrats as a guaranteed income stream that they attempt to maximize for their own benefit at the expense and the pension guaranteeing people who pay their salaries. The zero-sum game that is government budgeting will see blue-collar workers living in the countryside continue to contribute money for the capital’s paper pushers. Biden may only extend some benefits to building trades to drive up costs and save money.
He signed yet another prolabor executive order in February, and he stated that “As President of the United States,” “I Award Contracts.” [And]We won’t buy it if the American product I am purchasing isn’t made here. It’s not something we are going to buy. Every single project that we’re talking about that’s paid for with federal dollars and is a federal project, it’s going to be union jobs—every single one of them. What’s more? The American public is going to be safer, and it’s going to be cheaper—cheaper paying the right wage and the right trained people to begin with and get the job done right and on time.”
In the absence of any criticism, such magical thinking will only continue to grow. It may appear as old as the Molly Maguires and the coal-mining strike, but it is time to notice the economic excesses of Big Labor.