Monumental Change: President Biden’s First Few Days in Office

In his first seven days in office, President Joe Biden worked to undo damaging Trump-era policies and to address critical areas ignored by Trump.  Biden issued at least 40 executive orders, memoranda, or proclamations in all, covering a wide range of topics.  This tsunami of Orders gives some real hope that Unions, and the workers in them, finally have a real partner in the White House.  This news is momentous and must reach all Union leaders and activists.

This special edition of Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld’s Labor Law Updates gives you (1) a brief summary of most of these Orders and what they do for workers, and (2) further breaks down a few of Biden’s actions that should be of particular interest to Unions and the employees they represent, including the firing of National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) General Counsel Peter Robb and the President’s rulemaking authority.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

Direct Help for Working People Immediately

The President issued Orders:

  1. For a quick report on how to promote and secure a $15/hour minimum wage for all Federal employees, and employees of contractors who receive any Federal funding. The same Order also rescinds regulations that made it easier to fire Federal employees with no cause.
  2. Tightening up Federal purchasing so that there is a strong “Buy America” program in place that should affect up to $600 billion in buying each year and produce more US manufacturing jobs. In other words, this administration, unlike the last one, is putting its money where its mouth is.
  3. Re-opening the Federal Obamacare “exchange” from February 15 through May 15 so citizens in States that have no “exchanges” can once again enroll in low cost insurance programs and easier-top-secure Medicaid. This may impact as many as 15 million people, including at least 4 million who are entitled to free care if they enroll during this special ‘open enrollment’ period.
  4. Expanding funding for feeding children who usually eat at school and adding funds for SNAP (food stamps) to cover 12 million more people who may otherwise go hungry because of Covid-19 shut downs.
  5. Providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to last until at least the end of March 2021. This recognizes that struggling families should not be made homeless because they have lost jobs because of Covid-19 and cannot pay their rent or mortgages.
  6. Creating an online portal so people can claim their Pandemic assistance checks more quickly and easily.
  7. Asking the Department of Labor to promulgate rules allowing workers who fear for their health due to Covid-19 exposure to refuse to do such work and still be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  8. Stopping Federal student loan payments until the end of September 2021, and interest on those loans will be zero percent during this period. Biden has also vowed to cancel at least $10,000 in student loans per person and heavy lobbying is underway to raise that amount.
  9. Directing the Education Department to focus on using best evidence and scientific information available to get schools open again quickly and safely, instead of focusing on providing aid to phony financially failing private universities and charter schools.
  10. Directing the Department of Labor and OSHA to provide guidance to employers on how to re-open quickly and safely and to develop emergency standards for mask wearing and other safety procedures by March 15 so the economy can more fully re-open.
  11. Creating a new Pandemic Testing Board to develop a program for quick nationwide Covid-19 testing, so workplaces and schools can re-open quickly.
  12. Asking the Veterans Administration to figure out a way to help about 2 million veterans who owe money to the Federal government.

Fighting Covid-19 So the Economy Can Re-Open

The President issued Orders:

  1. Creating a real Covid-19 Team at the top made up of scientists that is taking responsibility for coordinating responses to the coronavirus disaster. There’s finally a team with health care expertise running the show, instead of a Vice President afraid to open his mouth, and a son-in-law running a real estate business. No more talks of the virus going away by miracle or drinking bleach to cure it—finally scientists like Tony Fauci are taking over control of a national response.
  2. Creating a mandate for all those entering Federal property to wear masks and socially distance, to not only set an example for everyone, but to keep our leaders healthy.
  3. Making masks mandatory on interstate public transportation, including on airplanes, trains, and interstate buses.
  4. To immediately rejoin the World Health Organization so we can help coordinate a worldwide response to Covid-19. As we are already seeing, just having a good vaccine to stop USA strains of Covid-19 doesn’t fix everything if a new variant can slip over our borders.
  5. Providing financial surge assistance to critical care and long term care facilities hit hard by the pandemic—to protect patients and to provide for safe work conditions for our most critical health care workers.
  6. Making sure all relevant government departments share all Covid-19 data and coordinate responses to be most effective. This Order is designed to make sure government actually works and helps solve the Covid-19 crisis instead of being disassembled and made into a shambles.
  7. Allowing the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to fund and use the National Guard wherever necessary to fight Covid-19.
  8. Imposing travel restrictions to limit spread of Covid-19, including restricting entry into the US of people from the European Union, Great Britain, Ireland, Brazil, or South Africa. These restrictions do not apply to US citizens, but all flying into the US must provide negative test results before entering—or as is now said, “Think positive but test negative.”

Saving Planet Earth for Our Children

The President issued Orders:

  1. Putting the U.S. back in the Paris Climate Accords, a series of agreements which set goals for every nation in the world on carbon emissions so we don’t overheat the globe and make it unlivable.
  2. Revoking the Keystone XL pipeline and topping oil and gas leasing in the Artic, so that we start expanding huge numbers of jobs working on solar, wind, and water power, instead of holding on to a few jobs continuing to extract oil and gas to burn and kill our planet. We expect this to be implemented to insure no jobs lost by workers in oil and gas, transferring their skills to new energy development.
  3. Making ‘climate considerations’ an ‘essential part’ of US foreign policy and national security. This Order lays out goals of conserving 30% of public lands and waters by 2030, halting the granting of leases on public lands and off shore waters, and putting the US on path to net-zero emissions by 2050.
  4. Creating a 26-member President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology so the White House has real scientists providing real scientific advice to the President.
  5. Requiring all Federal government agencies to make scientific and technological information central to all decision making where appropriate.

Protecting Workers Who Are the Newest Immigrants to a Nation That is Made Up of Immigrants and Their Descendants

The President issued Orders:

  1. Providing that DACA Dreamers, who grew up in the USA, went to school in the USA, and/or served in the US armed forces, can once again have their deportation deferred two years at a time, and new applicants can enter this DACA program. Once again, the US will help these inspiring Dreamers make homes, lives, and careers in the USA.
  2. Ending the Islamophobic travel ban on people visiting the USA from countries where there are Muslims.
  3. Allowing undocumented immigrants to be counted in the Census, so that when Federal aid programs and voting rights are apportioned according to the Census, the areas where they live get adequate resources.
  4. Cutting back on the attempt to deport millions of economically productive workers and their families because they do not have the correct pieces of paper to show full documentation.

Encouraging Equality for All

The President issued Orders:

  1. Directing the Domestic Policy Council to coordinate efforts to embed equity principles, policies, and approaches across the Federal Government. These efforts are to include providing equal access to all opportunities and benefits for all in America.
  2. Directing every Federal government agency to review every rule and regulation in place that allows for discrimination based on gender or gender preference, then to implement policies to rescind such rules, and to implement any policies which will insure an end to discrimination.
  3. Creating a Task Force to insure that inequalities created or exacerbated by Covid-19 are addressed and dealt with.
  4. Rolling back the last administration’s attempt to encourage housing discrimination and once again ordering HUD to promote programs that reduce housing discrimination.
  5. Directing Department of Health and Human Services to consider issuing guidance on best practices to insure that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not discriminated against in Covid-19 response programs. These efforts will include an end to racist labels like “China virus” and “kung flu,” used by prominent ignoramuses.
  6. Encouraging all Federal departments to engage in regular, meaningful, robust consultation with tribal officials for all indigenous peoples.
  7. Creating a Memorandum aimed at reversing prior administration’s limits on womens’ reproductive rights, including rescinding the Mexico City policy and the limits put on American family planning providers.

And More Good Stuff

The President issued Orders:

  1. Ending more wasted billions building a border wall that does nothing. The building never did more than reinforce 450 miles of wall that already existed, of the more than 1000 miles that was promised. No more money for a wall that didn’t stop anyone who really wanted to cross the border, that pretended there was no such thing as a boat, an airplane, or a car/bus/truck that could bring people into the USA.
  2. To clean the “swamp” that grew deep during the last four years, including by now prohibiting taking gifts from registered lobbyists, and prohibiting lobbying for two years after leaving Federal office.
  3. Freezing all the half-baked special interest rules and regulations the last administration tried to cook into the law on their way out the door.
  4. Repealing a ban on most transgender people serving in the military.
  5. To eliminate Federal use of private prisons. About 14,000 prisoners will no longer be ‘profit centers’ for private contractors. This Order is a move to take the profits out of useless incarceration and eliminate these companies as big money lobbyists in Washington.

By: Bill Sokol | February 1, 2021

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