US President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday establishing the “Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment,” charged with increasing union density and promoting workplace organizing.
The task force will be lead by Vice President Kamala Harris, who has advocated for public sector unions and co-sponsored legislation supporting the right to organize while serving in the US Senate. Other cabinet members, such as the Secretary of Labor, are also members of the task force.
The order comes at a time of union membership in steep decline. Over the past 50 years, union membership among workers has fallen from 33 percent to 10 percent. Some contend this trend has lead to growing income inequality and a shrinking middle class. Conversely, earlier this month, Amazon employees in Alabama rejected unionization efforts, expressing concern about the cost of union dues and remaining unconvinced of the added benefits of union protection.
In a separate executive order this week, Biden increased the minimum wage for federal contract workers. Any entity that contracts with the US government will now be required to pay their employees at least $15 per hour.
Several unions applauded Biden’s creation of the task force. The Service Employees International Union further stressed that “we need a whole rewrite of labor laws, which were originally written to exclude women, people of color and immigrants. That process starts now.”
Though the task force is only advisory, the group is to identify “policies, practices, and programs that could be used to promote worker power in areas of the country with hostile labor laws” and make recommendations for action within 180 days of the issuance of the order.