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As president, Biden follows through on his pro-union pledges

Late last year, Biden assured workers he'd be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen." As it turns out, this wasn't just hollow rhetoric.
Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks about efforts to combat COVID-19, in the State Dining Room of the White House, on March 2, 2021.Evan Vucci / AP

As a presidential candidate last year, Joe Biden would routinely tell Democratic audiences that his support for labor was so consistent, he earned a reputation as "Union Joe." The month before his presidential inauguration, Biden assured workers he'd be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen."

As it turns out, this wasn't just hollow rhetoric.

Last week, Biden released a striking video closely tied to an Amazon.com unionization vote in Alabama. As we discussed, it was the boldest pro-labor declaration made by a sitting American president in recent memory.

The Washington Post quoted one historian who characterized Biden's remarks as a potentially watershed moment. "It's almost unprecedented in American history," said Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island.

Yesterday, as TPM noted, Biden went a little further, issuing a White House statement endorsing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act).

The PRO Act is one of the most significant bills for the labor movement in decades: It would remove obstacles to workers forming unions without employer interference, and would effectively end the anti-union "right to work" laws that are currently in effect in 28 states.... The White House's statement of support, which was issued by the Office of Management and Budget, acknowledged that the PRO Act would protect workers' rights to organize a union and use collective bargaining to fight for better wages, benefits and workplace conditions.

"America was not built by Wall Street. It was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class," the White House said in its statement of administration policy. "Unions put power in the hands of workers."

The PRO Act reached the House Rules Committee yesterday, which is the step that comes before a vote on the House floor.

But as important as the legislation is -- and as discouraging as it is to pro-labor forces that it will struggle to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate -- the fact that Biden is going to such lengths to support unions is itself a major political development.

The New York Times added today, "As the Biden administration kicks into gear, it is putting organized labor at the heart of its push to rebuild the economy to a greater degree than any president — Democrat or Republican — in well over half a century."