Beginning of President Biden’s Term Shows Positive First Steps for Workers

March 1, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

During his campaign, President Biden assured the labor movement he would stand with workers. In his first days in office, he followed through on important steps towards fulfilling his promise to keep workers safe, both through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and right some of the damage caused by the anti-worker Trump administration.

Executive Order on Health and Safety

On January 21, one day after taking office, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Health and Safety, signaling that the administration’s priority is protecting workers.

“Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative. Healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic,” the order reads. “It is the policy of my Administration to protect the health and safety of workers from COVID-19.”

Specifically, the order mandates that “the Federal Government must take swift action to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace. That will require issuing science-based guidance to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure, including with respect to mask-wearing; partnering with state and local governments to better protect public employees; enforcing worker health and safety requirements; and pushing for additional resources to help employers protect employees.”

In order to meet these requirements, the order provides the Secretary of Labor, through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, with wide authority to reshape OSHA’s enforcement efforts to better protect workers. This Executive Order will apply to the Postal Service.

“This is a complete change from the Trump administration that had directed OSHA to take a relative ‘hands off’ approach to worker safety – especially concerning COVID-19,” said Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman. “We expect guidance to be issued that can significantly improve worker safety and management accountability. Once any standards or instructions are issued by OSHA we will reach back out to the field.”

New Pro-Worker Appointments and Firings of Anti-Worker Appointees at the Department of Labor

The recently announced appointments to various positions in the Department of Labor, as well as the removal of personnel appointed by the Trump administration, signaled a commitment from the Biden administration to a pro-worker policy.

Jim Frederick was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary at OSHA. Mr. Frederick is a dedicated unionist and former safety specialist for the United Steel Workers, who advised the APWU’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

President Biden also appointed former BCTGM General Counsel Jeff Freund as Director of the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS).

In a significant show of support to workers on his first day in office, President Biden fired National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb. Robb, a key member of the Reagan administration’s efforts to break the 1981 PATCO strike, moved the NLRB in a sharply pro-management direction during his tenure. On February 17, President Biden announced his nomination of Jennifer Abruzzo, currently the Communications Workers of America General Counsel, to the position.

“The new administration has made important first steps towards protecting essential workers and protecting collective bargaining rights. However, their work is far from complete,” said President Dimondstein. “The APWU will continue to push President Biden not only to reverse the catastrophic policies of the previous administration, but significantly improve the lives of workers beyond his time in office.”

Postal Relief Not Included in President Biden’s Stimulus Plan

As this issue goes to press, President Biden did not include additional COVID-19 relief for the USPS in his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. It is up to postal workers and our allies to pressure Congress to include this crucial funding to keep the USPS a public service for all the people of this country. Learn more about our fight for USPS COVID-19 relief and other postal issues on

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