The Stand

Biden visit reminds us why elections matter

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By LARRY BROWN


(April 25, 2022) — Elections matter. And President Biden’s visit to Western Washington last week offered a reminder of why working families in the country are so fortunate to have him as president, and how he and his administration have prioritized labor’s concerns and well-being.

Early last week, the Director of Labor Engagement in the White House called the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO with a short list of potential locations for one of President Biden’s stops while visiting Western Washington. The Biden administration wanted to ensure there were no negative labor issues at any of the locations or organizations under consideration. It was very gratifying to see that President Biden cared enough about the Washington state labor movement and his relationship with workers and their unions that he would reach out and check on that. The fact the Biden administration even has an Office of Labor Engagement speaks volumes about this president’s support for workers and their unions.

President Biden picked Marty Walsh, a card-carrying member and leader of LiUNA (Laborers International Union of North America), to be Secretary of Labor. Walsh is the first union member to hold that office. It’s another indication how Biden feels about the legitimate and prominent role unions should play in making and enforcing workplace rules. While past presidents have appointed friends of labor — or in the case of Republican presidents, people who actively oppose the freedom to join together in unions — President Biden appointed one of us.

While working people wait for Congress to approve the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, Secretary Walsh is already taking steps to make the union election process more fair and to discourage illegal employer interference. He has also taken action to improve workplace safety, enforce overtime pay standards, promote registered apprenticeship programs, and much more.

Walsh’s actions and leadership are why elections matter.

Less than a month ago, 30 labor leaders gathered at the Machinists District 751 Union Hall for a roundtable discussion with Secretary Walsh and our very own Senator Patty Murray. The topics of discussion included the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) championed by President Biden and approved by Congress. Murray and the other Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation worked to ensure $8.6 billion of the IIJA was earmarked for projects in Washington state.

We also discussed health care, prescription drug prices, the shortage of healthcare workers, and the need for support of public sector employees, educators and manufacturing workers. It was clear that Secretary Walsh thoroughly understood each of these issues, shared our concerns, and was able to speak in detail about the Biden administration’s efforts to address each one.

It’s another example of why elections matter.

Early last month, President Biden along with Secretary Walsh, met with nearly 40 national labor leaders to discuss how his administration could help working Americans. The president expressed his explicit support for workers and their collective bargaining rights, and explained that unions are the key to building a strong and deep middle class, something that has been shrinking over the last 50 years.

Many in attendance could not recall a president speaking so forcefully in support of unions. And his actions have demonstrated that he’s not just talk. He spurred passage of the Butch Lewis Act to protect our pensions and secure the promise of a dignified retirement for millions of workers and current retirees. He signed an executive order requiring Project Labor Agreements that maintain community wage and benefit standards on large-scale federal construction projects.

The American Rescue Plan and his other investments and policies have spurred unprecedented job growth. Through March, more than 7.9 American jobs had been created since he was sworn into office, more jobs in 14 months that any president in our history. And with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, millions more jobs will be created over the next decade to rebuild America’s roads and bridges, our public schools, our electrical system and high-speed internet capacity, our ports and waterways, and much more.

That’s proof positive that elections matter.

President Biden speaks at Green River College on April 22, 2022. (Photo by Larry Brown)

As president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, I am so appreciative that President Biden chooses to appoint union members to positions of leadership and to meet with and hear the concerns of the national AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions — and that he visited Washington, the state with the third highest union density in America.

I was honored to attend his event in my hometown of Auburn at Green River College, where I served as a board member for 13 years. The president talked about his recent actions to lower costs for families and called on Congress to pass his plan to lower healthcare and energy costs. The college was chosen to be part of his tour because of the career and technical programs it offers, including its nursing program, which again demonstrated the emphasis that the president puts on workforce development.

I was also honored to shake President Biden’s hand and get my picture taken with him, and to take that opportunity to thank him for being the most worker-friendly and union-friendly president of my lifetime, and perhaps in American history.

Like I said, ELECTIONS MATTER!

 


Larry Brown is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The WSLC is the largest union organization in the state, representing the interests of more than 550,000 members in 600-plus union organizations. Learn more at wslc.org.

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Posted by on Apr 25 2022. Filed under OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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