The Biden Administration’s policies on climate, the economy, racial equity, international relations, and trade all impact the auto industry. Workers’ and labor unions’ interests are central to nearly all of the President’s policies.
Shortly after he was elected, Biden pledged to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” The first few weeks of his administration show he is working to keep that promise, and some of his policies could have implications for automakers and suppliers.
- Biden mentions a goal of creating “millions of good-paying union jobs” as part of his administration’s policies to promote clean energy jobs combat climate change.
- He wants the government to buy electric vehicles that are “made in America by union workers.”
- He has even taken the unusual step of issuing a video on the White House YouTube channel supporting the Amazon workers’ union organizing drive in Bessemer, Alabama, as quoted below.
“I have long said America wasn’t built by Wall Street, it was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class…You should all remember that the National Labor Relations Act doesn’t just say unions are allowed to exist, it said that we should encourage unions.”
—President Biden, Video Remarks on 28 January 2021
Biden supports the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021 (H.R. 842 or the “PRO Act”). This legislation expands labor protections for employees’ rights to organize labor unions and bargain collectively in their workplace.
Among the many things the PRO Act would do is to expedite union representation elections, create new penalties against those who fail to comply with NLRB orders, legalize secondary strikes, and end right-to-work—even in states that have right-to-work laws in place.
The legislation also expands what constitutes an unfair labor practice to include: replacing or discriminating against striking workers, requiring or coercing employees to attend employer meetings that discourage unionization, and having employees waive their rights to join collective or class-action lawsuits.
The House of Representatives passed the PRO Act on 9 March on a vote of 225-206. The bill was read in the Senate on 11 March and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where it faces an uncertain future. There were five Republican votes in favor of the bill in the House, and one Democrat voted against. If the Senate filibuster remains in place, the legislation would need 60 votes to pass.
Besides supporting the PRO Act’s passage, Biden’s initial executive actions also focus on expanding worker rights. So far this year, Biden signed:
- An Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing to direct Federal agencies to mandate masks and social distancing for all Federal workers and contractors and all who enter Federal buildings.
- An Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety to direct the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue guidance to protect workers from COVID-19 risks in the workplace.
- The Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers, which directs Federal financial assistance and procurement to prioritize U.S.-produced goods and services and reinforces
- An Executive Order on the Revocation of Executive Order 13801 that rescinds President Trump’s order that expanded industry-led apprenticeships. The Biden Administration revoked this order in favor of registered apprenticeships—a move favored by U.S. labor unions.
- An Executive Order on the Revocation of Certain Presidential Actions that reverses several of President Trump’s orders, including one that limited Department of Defense workers’ union rights.
In the weeks to come, CAR will continue to monitor Biden’s environment and labor policies and review how his trade and infrastructure policy priorities may impact the auto industry.
Vice President, Research
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