White House labor task force meets Thursday to discuss key report that boosts unions

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will convene a second meeting on Thursday of the White House labor task force, a group of cabinet secretaries and top aides that aims to boost union membership in the country, two officials with knowledge of the matter said.

The group will discuss recommendations for a report commissioned by President Joe Biden in April on ways existing policies can promote labor organizing in the federal government, new policies that are needed and associated regulatory challenges. The report is due in late October, a White House official and a senior administration official, who did not wish to be named said.

The meeting on Thursday will be attended by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, the White House official said.

Others including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will attend virtually.

"The group will discuss taskforce progress so far, including significant recommendations for executive actions in their upcoming report," the White House official said. It will also discuss ways the administration can leverage the federal government's authority as an employer to promote worker organizing.

In June, Harris held the first field meeting of the taskforce in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and spoke to union organizers about their campaign to increase union membership and barriers to organizing.

Between 1979 and 2020, the percentage of American workers represented by a union dropped by 14.9 percentage points, according to estimates from the White House. As a result of that drop, American workers are losing out on $200 billion a year in wages and benefits they could have achieved under union contracts, the White House has said.

President Biden's administration may be the most overtly pro-union since Harry Truman left the Oval Office nearly 70 years ago, labor leaders and outside analysts have said, citing actions that have put unions at the center of policy — viewing them as vehicles not only to rebuild middle-class jobs but also to address climate change and racial and gender inequity.

Earlier this year, the U.S. labor movement suffered a significant setback when an effort to organize warehouse workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama failed badly. In August, a U.S. labor board official recommended a rerun of the landmark union election.

The death of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who had close ties to Biden, and had been an influential outside voice in helping to shape his ambitious jobs and infrastructure proposals, has also posed a challenge to the American labor movement. (Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons, Chris Sanders and Richard Pullin)