Government Connection

Biden Ramping Up Labor Agenda as Midterms Loom

Three developments central to shaping the Biden administration’s workplace policy agenda are likely to converge in the next month. The first involves the fate of transformative labor provisions in Democrats’ House-approved reconciliation bill, now subject to negotiation in the Senate. Second is the White House’s yet-to-be-unveiled task force report recommending executive actions to aid union organizing. And third is the semiannual agenda that lists each federal agency’s rulemaking playbook over the next year. These items are operating on separate tracks, yet they’re all connected. Collectively, they serve as a reminder that the midterms are less than a year out, meaning time is running short for the White House and congressional Democrats to put their stamp on labor and employment policy before they could potentially lose their slim majorities on Capitol Hill. The endgame for Democrats’ tax and social spending bill, aka President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better framework, carries the greatest significance because legislation would endure into future administrations. The outcome will determine whether first-of-their-kind labor law fines, significantly increased wage and safety penalties, robust enforcement funding, and paid leave will make the final bill. The regulatory agenda and worker-organizing task force’s recommendations could be released any day. They’ll map out the administration’s concrete labor goals beyond the legislative arena and provide a sense of what will be prioritized. It will likely show whether the department is ready in 2022 to revive an Obama-era initiative to extend overtime pay to millions of new Americans. It is also likely to reveal whether regulators plan an aggressive timeline for an infectious disease standard and other possible occupational safety protections.

November 23, 2021

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