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What A Biden Victory ‘Will Mean For The American Workforce - Possibilities Include ‘Heightened’ Worker Safety Enforcement, ‘Pursuit Of Progressive’ Labor Policy, A ‘Boost To Manufacturing’ Via Trade & A ‘More Labor-Friendly’ NLRB

Published Tuesday, November 10, 2020
by Eleanor Mueller/POLITICO
What A Biden Victory ‘Will Mean For The American Workforce - Possibilities Include ‘Heightened’ Worker Safety Enforcement, ‘Pursuit Of Progressive’ Labor Policy, A ‘Boost To Manufacturing’ Via Trade & A ‘More Labor-Friendly’ NLRB

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - With Joe Biden about to enter the Oval Office, the American workplace is going to look much different.

The former Vice President and U.S. Senator has four decades of relationships with Union Leaders behind him, setting him up to potentially be the most Labor-Friendly President the U.S. has ever had.

Biden, who won the endorsement of almost every major Union in the country, has made Labor reform a fundamental part of his program and is widely expected to name at least one Union Leader to his Cabinet.

“I don’t think (Obama) ‘got’ Labor.  ‘And I think Biden gets it,’” said Bill Spriggs, the National AFL-CIO’s Chief Economist. “When Biden walks in a room with Labor Leaders, he feels like ‘Oh, I’m at home.’"

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to stoke permanent job losses and compromise Worker safety, the case for structural change may be stronger than ever.

“The Coronavirus ‘has raised public consciousness and awareness about the plight of the Working Class in America, including low-wage Workers and the kind of people who used to be Unionized, and revealed the utter lack of Worker protections,’” former Labor Secretary Robert Reich told POLITICO.

The scope of what Biden can accomplish could be limited by the Senate, where two crucial races - both in Georgia - won't be decided until runoffs take place in January.

If Republicans maintain control of the chamber that could curtail many of Biden's plans.

Still, the transition will be a sharp turn from the Trump White House, under which Union Membership has droppedpay inequity has widened and enforcement has dwindled.

Some of the Democrats' highest priorities will be counteracting action taken - or in some cases, not taken - by the current administration.

“There’s a ‘litany of things’ the Trump Administration ‘has done that we have to undo,’” said U.S. Representative Andy Levin (Democrat-Michigan), who serves on the House Education and Labor Committee.

Here are some things lawmakers and experts say Workers and employers can expect from a Biden White House:

Heightened Worker Safety Enforcement: One of the first things a Biden Administration will likely move to do is instruct the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to step up Worker safety enforcement, including by enacting an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), or a set of guidelines governing how employers must protect their employees from COVID-19, and ramping up penalties on violators.  With an estimated 72,015 Workers having tested positive for Coronavirus and 315 fatalities in the food system alone, Democrats and Labor Advocates have become increasingly vocal in criticizing the Labor Department for what they say is leniency.  Despite having received more than 10,000 complaints since the pandemic started, the agency hasn't proposed a penalty greater than $30,000 for Coronavirus-related risks, even in cases where Workers died.  And Republicans have shot down an emergency standard, insisting employers need extra flexibility during the recession.  Biden’s campaign advocated to “immediately release and enforce an (ETS) to give employers And Front Line Employees specific, enforceable guidance on what to do to reduce the spread of COVID” and “double the number of OSHA Investigators to enforce the law and existing standards and guidelines.”

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