“I am so pleased that Marty Walsh, Secretary Walsh, will be the vice chair of this task force so we can do the work alongside these incredible leaders to really address something that is a high priority for our administration. We are proudly a pro-Union administration. This is the work of doing two things essentially – looking at what we can do to take on and address the work that the federal government already has the capacity to do around protecting collective bargaining, protecting workers’ rights, protecting the quality of life of working people in the federal government and doing it in a way that we also look at what we must do to ensure that working people can organize, that they can negotiate, because you know it’s pretty basic – Union workers are more likely to have retirement benefits, union workers are more likely to have safe working conditions, union workers make $191 more per week than the average worker who is not a member of the union.
Second, in terms of our priorities, we know that this is the case that when there are more union members, there is less income equality. Another priority for our administration is to combat income inequality which has only grown… this is a high priority for us, knowing that being pro union, pro labor also addresses income inequality.”
“Between 1979 and 2020 union density – and that means the percentage of American workers represented by a union – dropped by 14.9%. We can attribute that to a number of things….we all remember the air traffic controllers, we all remember certain inflection points that have contributed in distant history and recent history to these numbers. Because of that drop, according to research, American workers are losing 200 billion dollars a year. So this impacts not only the quality of life of the American worker, but this impacts the quality of life of all Americans because it impacts our economy and to the extent that we are interconnected, when our economy does well, the middle class does well, we all do well.”
“Our goal is to help increase our nation’s union density rate. We do believe that the work of this task force should embrace certain principles including that there is nothing that we do and can do that is too small or too big to address or to fix.”
We will find that there are issues that are seemingly small issues that deal with the administration of our government which, if fixed, will benefit many many people, many households and many families. So that is the guiding principle of the work we’re doing.
“Right now we need our economy to get stronger. I see Secretary Yellen there – I’m so happy to see – there are so many other leaders national, international leaders, on this issue, and the work we are going to do on this task force is to collaborate and to do the work that we can – a full government approach to ensuring that we are committed to the importance, and strategic importance for all of America of supporting organized labor and the right that all workers should have to collective bargaining.
“The final point I’ll make is that the pandemic, in many ways, has marked a new era for our nation. Some of you have heard me say this… so much of domestic and foreign policy was determined and designed based rightly on what happened on September 11th 2001 and for about 20 years so much of our domestic and foreign policy was informed by what happened on that tragic, horrible day. I would posit that we are at the beginning of a new era or epoch which has been…by this pandemic. This pandemic has been an accelerator, meaning for those for whom things were bad before they are even worse. This has been an accelerator meaning that we have seen vividly… the fissures, and the fractures and the failures of our systems. We have seen that if we do not protect workers’ rights – things like paid leave, workers’ safety, retirement – all of us pay a price.”
“So let’s look at this moment and the work we can collectively do in way that really is about work that can have intergenerational impact at the beginning of this new era. With all of that I want to thank you all – when we protect and preserve the rights of workers it is an extension of our respect for the dignity of work – the dignity of all work, so with that I want to thank you all.”
Secretary Marty Walsh then spoke:
“Thank you very much. It is an honor to be here. I am grateful to you and the president to serve on this task force and to all my colleagues. This is a historic moment in our country. It’s an honor for me as a second-generation union member to be sitting at this table fighting for the rights of people in this country to organize. When I think back to…My father came to this country in 1956, he was an immigrant, joined a union, and the opportunity that he gave me to be sitting one day as Secretary of Labor has been truly amazing.”
“My family, and millions of families right across the United States, joined the middle class though a union. It provided good wages, benefits and a voice – a voice for workers all across our country.”
“Organized workers are good for our economy and there is no denying that. If you look at the numbers, the numbers state that. And the decline in union membership is a problem -you see is the decline of the middle class.”
“The increase in inequality has caused wage stagnation in our country, reduced opportunities for people of color and shifted power away from workers to corporations and Wall Street.”
“If there’s only one thing I’ve learned in the labor movement, it’s solidarity. We can only overcome the challenges if we stand together. So we’re going to look at how every cabinet, how every federal agency, empowers workers and enables their rights to organize. “I look forward to the conversations we are going to have.”