What do roads and bridges have to do with labor unions? Quite a lot potentially. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan (a proposed two trillion-dollar investment in traditional steel and concrete infrastructure but also in job creation and labor law enforcement) advocates multiple changes championed by organized labor. Here are two key samples:
The President’s jobs plan calls on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (or “PRO Act”). Among other things, the PRO Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act and eliminate state so-called Right to Work laws. Right to Work laws permit employees in unionized workplaces to individually opt-out of union membership (and likewise opt out of paying union dues). Right to Work supporters think it is unfair to mandate union participation for dissenting employees. Supporters of the PRO Act argue that Right to Work laws encourage workers to “free load” by enjoying benefits of a workplace governed by a union contract without paying their share.
If the PRO Act can survive a Republican filibuster in the Senate, it would eliminate Right to Work laws nationwide … a big win for labor.
The steel and concrete portions of President Biden’s plan would translate into a big opportunity for those federal contractors who will repair the roads and build the bridges and reinforce the electric grid. In return, Biden wants those same contractors to remain neutral if faced with a union organizing drive in their workplace. Normally, companies facing a vote to unionize mount their own countercampaign to discourage employees to vote in favor of the union. But if the president’s plan is implemented, any company signing a contract with the federal government will agree as part of that contract not to stand in the way of a pro-union effort.
Mr. Biden’s plan is a long way from reality. As folks in Washington debate its merits in the weeks and months ahead, expect them to peek beneath the concrete and take a position on the plan’s pro-labor objectives.