Americans want Biden to advance labor standards

The AFL-CIO and Data for Progress released a nationwide poll of likely voters that found widespread support for executive actions addressing key issues impacting working people, including employee misclassification, union-busting and federal purchasing power.

President Joe Biden should use federal purchasing power to lift labor standards and compliance, advance such policy as ‘Buy American,’ and advance other progressive contracting reforms, including clean energy and green purchasing, according to 59 percent of those polled.

“Working people have borne the brunt of this crisis from day one,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “In order to recover from the failures of the past year, we must take urgent, aggressive action to protect workers’ lives and livelihoods.

“The American people know that we can’t afford timid half-measures. We are urging President Biden to usher in generational changes that will strengthen the hand of working families and guarantee us a fair share of the enormous value we create every day,” said Trumka.

“This polling highlights clear, widespread support for executive actions the Biden administration can use to improve working conditions, create good-paying union jobs, and promote smart industrial policy here in the United States,” said Data for Progress Executive Director Sean McElwee.

A stunning 69 percent say Biden should follow through on this promise to ensure that “federal dollars do not flow to employers who engage in union-busting activities, participate in wage theft, or violate labor law.”

With the power of presidency, Biden wields a potent tool to improve working conditions, promote the clean energy sector, and strengthen labor unions in this country.

One of the strongest tools Biden holds is in the federal government’s role as a purchaser of goods and services, often referred to as “procurement.”

This can function as a simple, yet effective instrument of industrial policy, allowing the administration to invest in American workers and build up domestic manufacturing and critical supply chains with high labor standards.

The other policy avenue available to the Biden administration comes in the form of revised use of existing federal labor law. This can materialize in a handful of ways.

Biden has already taken the step of instructing the Department of Labor to reconsider how it treats workers who leave their jobs because of unsafe conditions due to the pandemic, potentially making them eligible for unemployment insurance.

Biden can also work to ramp up enforcement on platform companies such as Uber and Instacart that incorrectly treat their employees as independent contractors. This can represent a means of reversing the damage of measures such as Proposition 22 in California. 

The poll says 58 percent of Americans support the Department of Labor using its enforcement authority to require companies, such as Uber, to insure their employees benefit from all the protections and benefits that other American workers enjoy, such as minimum wage and overtime.

As part of a February, 2021 survey of 1,215 likely voters nationally, Data for Progress polled a range of steps that the Biden administration could through executive action regarding procurement, the misclassification of workers, and towards improving labor standards more generally.

The survey finds high levels of support for these proposals, even when tested using partisan frames and with explicit mention of the use of executive orders.

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