Labor Taskforce Unveils Recommendations

February 9, 2022

On Feb. 7, the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, led by Vice President Kamala Harris Labor Secretary Marty Walsh publicly released its report to President Joe Biden outlining nearly 70 recommendations on promoting worker organizing and collective bargaining for federal, public and private sector employees. Some of the recommendations could have a major impact on small business.

The recommendations were developed in collaboration with over twenty executive agencies, departments, and White House offices.

The recommendations are designed to:

  1. Position the federal government as a model actor, by promoting broader labor-management engagement.
  2. Use the government’s authority to support workers empowerment by providing information, ensuring that existing pro-worker services are delivered in a timely manner, and improving transparency.
  3. Use the longstanding authority of the federal government to leverage its purchasing and spending power to support workers who are organizing and pro-worker employers.

Below are some of the key pieces of impact for small business.

Connect Small Business Owners with Resources on Unionization

  • This recommendation would instruct the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to assemble a resource guide for small businesses, in partnership with the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, to inform small business employers of their obligation to respond legally and fairly to worker organizing and provide an overview of additional resources and trainings for employers. Unfortunately, this resource fails to fully embrace the rights of small businesses to push back against a unionizing campaign. Because SBA is seen as an impartial resource for small businesses, complete information must be provided—including input from stakeholders and stakeholder representatives.

Promote COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program as a Tool to Re-Employ Unionized Workforces

  • This recommendation would require SBA target small businesses in highly unionized industries with information about the availability of COVID EIDL loans. Unfortunately, not ONLY unionized industries have been impacted by COVID and there are many issues that exist with EIDL, including transparency, loan backlogs and poor communication. SBA’s resources would be better put to use to address these issues within EIDL.

Use Evaluation Factors That Support Union Participation in Veterans Affairs Construction Projects

  • This recommendation instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to include labor union participation or involvement as an evaluation factor in major construction procurements. This new factor in determining prime OR subcontracts could be a major stumbling block to many small businesses – especially smaller businesses with fewer employees where unionizing is far less common.

Ensure Compliance with Existing Labor Standards in Federal Grants and Contracts

  • This recommendation calls for strengthening and fully enforcing all labor rules with any federal grant or contract, which, on its face makes sense. However, the reality could translate into more paperwork requirements, longer decision times and additional bureaucratic loopholes small businesses will have to jump through, simply because applying a one-size-fits all measure to all federal contractors or grantees misses the many nuances of what it means to run a small business, especially where labor is concerned.

There are several other recommendations that appear to promote the ability of labor unions to partner with the federal government to provide workforce training, access federal financial assistance, get federal grants and contracts and promote worker organizing. These recommendations could be a windfall to labor unions at the expense of small businesses.

NSBA urges policymakers to tread carefully and with a robust understanding of the implications these recommendations would have on America’s smallest businesses.

The full White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment report can be found here.