- With the goal of facilitating worker organizing and increasing union membership, Vice President Kamala Harris convened the first meeting of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment last week.
- Calling the administration "proudly pro-union," Harris said the task force will look at ways to ensure that working people can organize and negotiate with employers.
- The task force, which includes more than 20 heads of agencies and Cabinet officials including Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, is an effort by President Joe Biden to help reverse a nationwide decline in union membership and power.
During the meeting, Harris said unions give workers and their families a better life.
"We know — it's pretty basic — union workers are more likely to have retirement benefits; union workers are more likely to have safe working conditions; union workers make $191 more per week than the average worker who is not a member of the union," she said during the meeting.
Walsh, a former construction union leader, called it an honor to be part of the task force.
"My father came to this country in 1956. He's an immigrant. Joined a union. And the opportunity that he gave me, as a union member, to be sitting one day as Secretary of Labor has been truly amazing," he said.
Just over 6% of U.S. private-sector workers belong to unions, according to the White House. President Joe Biden has directed the task force to devise a set of recommendations within 180 days about potential changes to policies, practices and programs that will promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in both the public and private sectors, and to increase union membership rates.
During last week's meeting, Walsh said the decrease in union membership has hurt workers over the years.
"You can see the decline in the middle class as you see the decline in the union membership across our country for the last 50 or so years," he said.
The goals of the task force, which include addressing challenges to organizing in underserved communities, align with another Biden initiative: combating income inequality.
"We know that this is the case that when there are more union members, there is less income inequality," Harris said. "And the bottom line is that we believe when workers organize, our economy gets stronger. And right now, we need our economy to get stronger."