Biden promises to undo Trump’s workforce policies

Former vice-president Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019, at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia. (Matt Smith Photographer/

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presumed presidential nominee, promised, if elected, to roll back many of the workforce policies that President Donald Trump instituted during his time in the White House.

Biden’s “Empower Workers” platform said he would reinstate an Obama-era executive order that penalized federal contractors that pursued anti-union campaigns and did not pay their workers at least a $15 per hour and provide other benefits.

The “Empower Workers” platform has made Biden’s support for expanding and protecting collective bargaining rights a key point of his campaign's appeal to public-sector workers.

Biden pledged to pass the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, both of which would codify into law the right for public employees -- including police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians -- to unionize and collectively bargain over issues such as wages and work schedules.

“States have decimated the rights of public sector workers who, unlike private sector workers, do not have federal protections ensuring their freedom to organize and collectively bargain,” Biden's platform states.

The campaign did not respond to FCW’s request for an interview.

While it has yet to formally announce which candidate it will endorse, the American Federation of Government Employees published the results of recent poll in which 58.4% of respondents said that the union should endorse Biden.

AFGE Public Policy Director Jacqueline Simon told FCW that the current administration has adopted “scorched-earth, anti-federal worker, anti-civil service” policies, particularly the three May 2018 executive orders that rolled back unions’ ability to conduct business using official time, accelerated the timeline for firing workers and restructured the grievance negotiation process.

“The Trump administration has been devastating to federal workers’ rights,” Simon said in an interview. “The executive orders narrowed our already narrow collective bargaining rights and made it harder for federal workers to get union representation even when they vote for it and pay for it.”

Biden, in his answer to an AFGE questionnaire for presidential candidates, said he would support efforts that would prevent rollbacks of official time use and block efforts to prevent voluntary automatic union dues deductions from federal workers’ paychecks.

As the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the economy, another area of union concern is cuts to workers’ salaries and retirees’ benefits, a tactic used during the 2008 recession, Simon said.

In recent years, the Trump administration has proposed cuts to retired federal employees’ benefits and increasing the contribution expected from current workers. 

“We made it clear to the Biden campaign that those kinds of outrageous cuts due to anti-deficit budget posturing were something that they need to stay far away from,” Simon said.

In his questionnaire response, Biden pledged to abstain from doing so.

“Our federal employees deserve fair compensation and should not be subject to cuts in health insurance premiums or other critical employee benefits,” he wrote. “The federal government should lead by example and provide high quality benefits, instead of pushing anti-worker budget adjustments designed to shift the burden of health care and retirement costs onto employees.”

Biden also pledged to support legislation that would permanently appropriate money to continue funding federal workers’ salaries in the event of any lapses in agency funding due to events such as the 35-day partial government shutdown that began in December 2018.

“The uncertainty of budget showdowns can be a source of great stress for federal employees trying to make ends meet and are harmful to the dedicated public servants who keep our country running,” Biden wrote in his questionnaire answer. “Not only was this hard on working families, it also compromised our safety. In my administration, workers, their safety, and the safety of the public will come first above all else.”

About the Author

Lia Russell is a former staff writer and associate editor at FCW.


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