President Joe Biden has championed himself as a supporter of unions and union workers but has run into trouble as strikes and strike threats build up around the country.
Organized labor has seen a number of strikes and strike threats over Biden’s term, including in the rail, shipping, auto manufacturing and acting industries. Biden pledged to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen” the night before the 2020 election, pushing policies like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which Republicans have criticized as forcing unionization onto workers, while facing pushback from some top union officials, including the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers (UAW). (RELATED: Biden Regulator Poised to Shove Left-Wing Priorities Into The Workplace)
“Biden likes to look pro-union, he’ll turn on those running the unions when it’s politically advantageous—as it was during the railway strike,” David Osborne, fellow at the Institute for the American Worker, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Union executives rarely take issue with it, because doing so would threaten their own political celebrity. Unfortunately, rank-and-file employees are caught in the middle, and they’re the ones with the most to lose when negotiations break down or workers go on strike. The rank-and-file workers will blame Biden, but because they represent such a small percentage of the electorate—and their union executives will endorse Biden anyway—Biden won’t know about it and won’t care.”
The Biden administration blocked a national U.S. railroad strike in December, rejecting the unions’ calls for more paid sick leave and using Congress to block the strike due to the special powers it is afforded as a part of transportation rules, according to Reuters. The move was criticized by union leaders, including Sean O’Brien, General President of the Teamsters.
“Rail carriers make record profits. Rail workers get zero paid sick days. Is this OK? Paid sick leave is a basic human right. This system is failing,” O’Brien said in a series of tweets. “But this fight is not over. It’s just begun. We need more corporate accountability, and dammit we need better elected officials.”
The political fight over gaining the votes of big unions for the 2024 presidential election has already begun. Former President Donald Trump released a campaign video on July 21 attacking Biden’s Green New Deal policies and appealing to UAW for an endorsement.
Biden privately met with UAW President Shawn Fain on July 19, following a meeting with top White House officials to discuss a new round of negotiations with General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler parent company Stellantis, with the union not ruling out calling for a strike from its 150,000 hourly workers, according to Reuters. UAW has yet to endorse Biden after criticizing the Biden administration’s plan to lend $9.2 billion to Ford and South Korea’s SK to build new U.S. battery plants.
Despite not yet receiving an endorsement from UAW, the president has already been endorsed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the U.S., representing more than 12 million active and retired workers, according to a June press release. The AFL-CIO is made up of 60 unions, including big unions like the American Federation of Teachers, with the announcement being the earliest endorsement for a presidential candidate from the group ever.
Today, President Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders met with young workers at the White House to discuss organizing unions and supporting labor across the country.
This Administration believes every worker deserves fair pay and benefits and a voice at work. pic.twitter.com/6mWKUC2QqT
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 18, 2023
“The uptick in union strikes and strike potential is being influenced by Biden’s administration,” Austen Bannan, employment policy fellow with Americans for Prosperity, told the DCNF. “His [National Labor Review Board] has been increasingly willing to file unfair labor practice charges against businesses even when there is lacking evidence. That helps fuel willingness to engage in union activism with union leaders knowing they may have additional leverage.”
The Teamsters reached a tentative deal with the United Parcel Service on Tuesday, narrowly beating the expiration of the previous contract that would have ended on July 31 and avoiding a possible strike by 340,000 delivery drivers. The deal gives drivers higher wages, equal pay, air conditioning in vehicles and Martin Luther King Jr. Day off.
Hollywood’s largest union, SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 actors, joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in striking on July 14, after WGA has been on strike since April.
The Biden campaign and the White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment from the DCNF.
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