Latest pro-labor actions aim to grow the economy "from the middle out and the bottom up” as part of Bidenomics
By Miriam Raftery
View President Biden's Labor Day speech in Philadephia, where he speaks to union workers about the differences between his record of helping working people and Donald Trump's record
September 3, 2023 (Washington D.C.)-- President Joe Biden promised to be the most pro-worker and pro-union President in American history, and has taken numerous steps to keep that promise.
Under his administration, more jobs per month have been created than under any president in the past four decades, despite the pandemic. Recent polls show support for unions at its highest level in more than half a century—68% according to Gallup. Though inflation has been the greatest economic challenge,Inflation-adjusted income is up 3.5% since the President took office, and the largest wage gains over the last two years have gone to the lowest-paid workers, according to the White House. The unemployment rate is the lowest in 50 years, the Deptartment of Commerce reports, and a greater share of working-age people have a job today than in over 20 years. Under Bidenomics, America is seeing a historic level of investment in manufacturing, Forbes reports, and new industries to create good-paying jobs that Americans can raise a family on and build a community around.
In advance of Labor Day, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new actions this week to empower workers by investing in America’s clean energy workforce, establishing pathways into high-paying and union jobs, demonstrating the benefits of unions, and extending critical wage protections.
The White House released details on these actions, including:
Ensuring Clean Energy Investments Support High-Quality and Union Jobs
- Good-paying clean energy jobs: The Dept.of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service published a historic proposed rule to support good-paying jobs in clean energy and workforce development through incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Many of the new law’s clean energy deployment tax incentives are increased by five times if taxpayers pay workers prevailing wages and use registered apprentices.
- Equitable transition to electric vehicles: The Dept. of Energy opened applications for the $2 billion Domestic Manufacturing Conversion Grants program created by the IRA. This will provide funding for auto manufacturers transitioning to electric vehicles. To protect workers, this program will prioritize applications from facilities at risk of closing or recently closed, and reward applicants that retain existing workers, have strong labor partnerships, pay high wages, and convert facilities while staying in the same community. The Department of Energy Loan Programs Office is also facilitating access to $10 billion in capital for auto factory conversions, prioritizing areas with a long history of auto manufacturing, strong workforce practices and labor standards.
- Strengthen electric vehicle (EV) battery supply chains and supporting high-quality jobs: The Dept. of Energy is releasing a second-round Notice of Intent for $3.5 billion for the Battery Manufacturing grant programs under the bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program will help expand domestic manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles and the nation’s grid, as well as for battery materials and components currently imported from other countries.
Demonstrating the Union Advantage
- Analysis on how unions benefit the economy: The Dept. of the Treasury released a first-of-its-kind report that finds that unions help grow the economy by reducing inequality, raising incomes, increasing savings (including retirement savings), and broadening homeownership. According to the report, released as part of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris, union members make higher wages and are more likely to earn critical benefits like retirement, health care, child care, life insurance, and sick leave. The report also finds that all workers—even non-union workers and workers who have been laid off—experience gains from greater unionization.
Extending Overtime Protections
- The Department of Labor released a proposed rule to increase the overtime salary threshold from under $36,000 per year to roughly $55,000 per year. Under this proposal, more salaried employees making less than $55,000 per year and working more than 40 hours a week would receive at least one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for the overtime hours they work. The proposed rule would extend overtime pay to as many as 3.6 million hardworking Americans.
These actions build on historic support for workers and unions since Biden took office, including:
- Raising wages for construction workers: In August, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule updating the Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage standards for the first time in nearly 40 years. The rule affects over a million workers constructing $200 billion in federally funded or assisted projects, who will receive higher wages over time. Nearly all of the significant construction programs contained in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act require or provide strong incentives for the use of Davis-Bacon prevailing wages—which ensures even more workers will benefit from DOL’s new rule.
- Protecting workers’ pay: The Biden-Harris Administration has recovered more than $690 million for more than 440,000 low-paid workers across the nation. The Administration enforces laws that protect these workers from being victims of wage theft and exploitation when they were not paid minimum wages or hard-earned overtime wages, were denied their tips, or were misclassified as independent contractors.
Supporting Workers’ Right to Organize
- Educating workers on their rights: Recently, the Dept of Labor relaunched the Worker Organizing Resource and Knowledge (WORK) Center. The WORK Center is the federal government’s premiere online resource center providing information about labor unions and their importance to workers and communities. While more than half of non-union workers say they want a union, only about 10 percent of these workers say they know how to form one. The WORK Center meets the needs of workers who are seeking more information about their labor rights and lack experience in organizing.
- Disclosing when federal contractors hire union avoidance advisors. In July, the Dept. of Labor published a final regulation requiring private-sector employers to indicate whether they are federal contractors or subcontractors, promoting transparency for workers and the federal government into whether contractors hire anti-union consultants.
Expanding Workforce Development
- Making historic investment in Registered Apprenticeships: To create a pathway to good-paying jobs, the Biden-Harris Administration invested a historic $285 million in Registered Apprenticeships in fiscal year 2023 and, in July, awarded more than $65 million in grants to 45 states to expand and diversify Registered Apprenticeships in high-demand industries. The Administration also launched the Apprenticeship Ambassadors Initiative to amplify the Registered Apprenticeship model with private- and public-sector employers.
- Launching Investing in America Workforce Hubs: In May, the Biden-Harris Administration launched new initiatives to train and connect more workers to good-paying jobs—including union jobs—created by the President’s Investing in America investments. Through the Workforce Hubs Initiative, the Administration is partnering with local officials, employers, unions, community colleges, and other stakeholders to ensure a diverse and skilled workforce is ready to meet the demand for labor driven by historic public and private investments in five hubs—Phoenix, Columbus, Baltimore, Augusta, and Pittsburgh.
Fostering Equal Employment Opportunities
- Increasing access to good construction jobs for underrepresented workers: In March, the Dept. of Labor launched the Mega Construction Project (Megaproject) Program, initially designating 12 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded projects across the country. The Megaprojects Program provides free, continuous, on-the-ground assistance to help construction project owners, contractors, and unions ensure equal employment opportunities for underrepresented workers. Also in March, the Dept. of Labor announced a $20 million cooperative agreement with TradesFutures for the Scaling Apprenticeship Readiness Across the Building Trades Initiative, in partnership with the National Urban League. This first-of-its-kind initiative aims to substantially increase the number of participants from underrepresented populations and underserved communities in Registered Apprenticeship programs in the construction industry.
- Expanding access to child care and long-term care: In April, President Biden issued an Executive Order with more than 50 actions to increase access to high-quality care and better support caregivers. The Executive Order directs all cabinet-level agencies with federal job-creation funds—including from his Investing in America agenda—to consider requiring or encouraging grantees to use funds for supportive services, including child care and long-term care, to the maximum extent allowable. This action aims to help underserved workers enroll in and complete training, then transition to good jobs, including union jobs.