New Congress and Presidential Administration Offer Positive Landscape for Legislative Progress

January 11, 2021

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

As this issue reaches mailboxes, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as President and Vice President, and the 117th Congress will have begun. As President Biden begins his first 100 days in office, the work now begins to hold him and Congress accountable to their campaign promises to stand with workers, not Wall Street.

“APWU members should be proud of the work we did in the 2020 elections,” said President Dimondstein. “In order to meet the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic and reverse the harmful policies of his predecessor, President Biden and his legislative majority must now offer bold solutions and pass lasting policy to secure a vibrant public Postal Service, protect working families, and strengthen workplace protections.”

“The APWU has already begun working with the new administration and Congress to advance our legislative priorities,” said Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard. “With postal workers still serving on the frontlines of the pandemic, we will work tirelessly to advance legislation that will benefit our members, their jobs/benefits, and safety.”

Below are a few of the issues the new administration can turn their focus to in the first 100 days. For a list of specific issues directly affecting postal workers, please click here to read the Legislative & Political report.

COVID-19 Related Relief for Workers

As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Postal Service especially hard. Over 68 postal workers have died, and tens of thousands have been forced to quarantine. Over ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, deaths from the virus have skyrocketed, with millions out of work and poverty levels continuing to rise across the country.

President Biden has stated that his first priority is passing a sufficient relief package that will address the public health and economic crises of the pandemic. While it is the APWU’s first priority to secure sufficient financial relief for the Postal Service in any package, we must also push the administration to include the appropriate provisions to fully support workers devastated by the pandemic, including sufficient financial relief for individuals, state and local governments.

In December, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a $900 billion stimulus package that was the first relief signed into law since the CARES Act in March. The compromise bill lacked sufficient funding for a variety of crucial programs, including relief for state and local governments, public transit, schools, and small businesses. President Biden has promised to include these provisions in the next package, and to increase payments to individuals to $2,000 per person.

Pro-Worker Labor Law Reform

During his campaign, President Biden promised to stand with workers. He committed to appoint pro-labor members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), work to eliminate anti-union “Right to Work” laws, and restore and strengthen workplace protections on the right for union organizing and collective bargaining. Additionally, President Biden also supported increasing the federal minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. Now, with a majority in the Senate, President Biden has the ability to follow through on these promises.

In February 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. This historic, wide-ranging legislation would: authorize penalties for employers who infringe on workers’ rights, prevent employers from interfering in union elections, prevent misclassification of employees as ‘independent contractors’, protect workers’ rights to engage in solidarity actions, prevent “free-riding” by allowing unions to collect fair share fees, and require mediation and arbitration when employers deliberately refuse to negotiate a contract in good faith.

However, while the PRO Act passed the House, the Senate refused to bring the bill up for a vote. With a pro-worker majority in the chamber, the Senate must pass the legislation and President Biden must stand with workers by signing it into law.

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