The American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s recent $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, includes many labor-friendly recommendations. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, union neutrality, and changes to wages and enforcement of health and safety regulations are part of the legislative plan under review by Congress. Of these proposals, the PRO Act, which already has passed the House, may face the most opposition in the Senate.
The PRO Act would, among other provisions, change State right-to-work laws to permit unions to require workers at unionized companies to pay dues. Currently, employees in right-to-work states may choose not to pay union dues. It would also expand the definition of “employee” and limit the concept of independent contractor.
The White House’s overview of the American Jobs Plan states that Biden “is calling on Congress to ensure all workers have a free and fair choice to join a union by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, and guarantee union and bargaining rights for public service workers.”
A separate part of the American Jobs Plan language requires companies that hold federal contracts to remain neutral during union organizing.
The American Jobs Plan proposes:
- Eliminating subminimum wage provisions in Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The wage waiver was created under the FLSA in 1938 and was meant to help people with severe disabilities, including mental illness and developmental disabilities, find work. Some workers are paid less than $1 an hour. In May 2015, New Hampshire became the first state to ban paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities. Maryland (in 2016) and Alaska (in 2018) have since done the same.
- Demanding that employers benefitting from the plan’s infrastructure investments follow strong labor standards.
- Calling for increased penalties when employers violate workplace safety and health rules.
- Requiring the companies who secure federal contracts in clean energy and infrastructure to follow prevailing wages.
The American Jobs Plan requests:
- Federal investments to be tied to project labor, community workforce, local hire and registered apprenticeships, and other labor or labor-management training programs.
- Congress to include a commitment to increase American jobs through Buy American and Ship American provisions.
- $48 billion in American workforce development infrastructure, which would focus on registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, creating 1 million to 2 million new registered apprenticeship slots.
- $40 billion for a new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training, including clean energy, manufacturing and caregiving.