Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan—the mega stimulus that is being hotly debated in the American intellectual universe at the moment—calls for the Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. It should be no surprise; the US president who thoroughly defeated Trump, whose administration cut taxes for the wealthy, is viewed to be the most pro-labour-union president in recent times—indeed, by some, as the most pro-union ever.
He has rolled back Trump-era rules and laws that weakened protection for workers and is learnt to be looking to pump in billions of dollars into union-backed pension plans. At a recent press event, he even remarked that it wasn’t Wall Street, perhaps meaning to say ‘capitalists’, but the middle-class that built America. And the unions built the middle-class.
But, how much of this is mere playing to the gallery—the gallery being his party-colleagues further to the left, who seem to have significant support from large sections of the American youth—and how much is real legislative intent is hard to tell. Biden has, over the years, voted for trade deals that had the unions seeing red. He also must be acutely aware that PRO Act will run into stiff Republican opposition in the Congress and even a very, very likely Senate filibuster.
His record as vice-president in the Obama administration, which had, more than once, rubbed unions the wrong way would suggest his union-love is political ‘stancing’. While recent episodes in some of the largest multinationals paint these corporations in poor light when it comes to industrial relations, the fact is that militant unionism has not only threatened the existence of small businesses in the US and elsewhere, but also, in the process, left workers even more vulnerable. To that end, Biden, and those in America and elsewhere cheering his ‘pro-unionism’, will need to carefully consider the ramifications.