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President-elect Joe Biden, while speaking with key labor leaders and CEOs from some of the nation's biggest companies, made a promise: Unions will have increased power under his administration.
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"I made it clear to the corporate leaders," Biden said during remarks about the U.S. economy in Wilmington, Del. "I said 'I want you to know I’m a union guy. Unions are going to have increased power.' They just nodded. They understand. It’s not anti-business. It’s about economic growth."
Biden, who often refers to himself as "blue-collar Joe," has a long-standing relationship with union leaders, cultivated over his more than 40 years in politics. He has previously pledged to be the "strongest labor president you have ever had."
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The former vice president has already tapped a slew of labor officials to join his economic transition team, and he's vowed to create a Cabinet-level working group comprised of labor representatives "that will solely focus on promoting union organizing and collective bargaining in the public and private sectors."
Labor membership has seen a steady, decades-long decline; just a little more than 10% of workers were represented by unions last year, according to Labor Department data, a decline of nearly 50% from 1983.
Unions hope Biden will enact policies that could revive the labor movement and bring in more members – and more money. For instance, Biden has committed to passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would amend decades-old labor laws by expanding workers' collective bargaining rights and add penalties for companies that retaliate against employees for forming unions.
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But getting the legislation to Biden's desk hinges on whether Democrats win a Senate majority with victories in two Georgia runoffs in January.
If Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win both of those races against incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively, the party could secure a 50-50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote.
On the call with Biden and Harris on Monday were several chief executives, including General Motors' Mary Barra, Microsoft Corp.'s Satya Nadella and Target's Brian Cornell, as well as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and the leaders of the United Auto Workers and Service Employees International Union.
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Harris also emphasized during their remarks about the need to create "good-paying union jobs," part of what she said is needed to rebuild the economy "so that it works for working people."
"We will do it by protecting the health and safety of our workers and creating millions of good-paying union jobs from auto and construction jobs to domestic workers and caregiving jobs to service and hospitality jobs," she said.
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