Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President in a Roundtable with Unionized Federal Sector Workers

October 20, 2021

Via Teleconference

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning, everyone. I am so happy to see all of you. Warner -- also known as "Andy," Yolan, Cheryl, Erin, Anita, I want to thank you all for the conversation we're about to have as -- as representative you all are of federal workers all over our country who are doing some of the most incredible and noble work that any one person can choose to do.

I want to, of course, thank my partner in this process, Secretary Marty Walsh, who has been extraordinary. He's a lifelong supporter and fighter for organized labor, for labor unions, and most importantly for workers.

I also want to thank the Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja for the work that you have been doing. This has been extraordinary. It's been a process of working with outstanding public servants who include members of the President's Cabinet, who have been looking internally at the federal government, at these most important agencies and thinking about: How can we do a better job to protect our nation's workers?

And that is at the core of the work that this task force was charged with doing, understanding that federal workers -- in particular, government workers, public service professionals -- do their work on behalf of the public, usually on behalf of people they never have known, may never even meet. They do their work every day tirelessly on behalf of people who may never know their names but will forever be benefited because of that work.

We are proud, as the Biden-Harris administration, in what we believe we will be, which is the most pro-union administration in the history of America. And our work includes not only the work of this task force, but the work of creating good union jobs through the Build Back Better Agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.

We intend to do everything we can to help pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act, also known as the "PRO Act." And we intend to use our executive authority to lift up workers through this task force and to highlight the nobility of their work.

And let's just think about who our federal workers are: Our federal workers are nurses who care for our veterans. Our federal workers are firefighters who keep our national forests safe. I've talked to so many of them.

Also, in terms of the work they've been doing, in particular in the western states, fighting these incredible wildfires that are damaging whole communities, if not wiping out whole communities.

Who are our federal workers? They're scientists who have been working to ensure that products are safe and -- and to discover breakthroughs. We've seen the incredible work of them, in terms of what we've seen during the pandemic, which really highlights the importance and the nobility of people who have dedicated themselves to public service, to doing the work that is about ensuring the public good.

So, we want to thank everyone for this. Our administration has been working to help folks, in particular in the federal government, organize and collectively bargain.

And there are two main reasons. We believe that a stronger workforce is the work that will happen to create actually higher productivity and lower turnover. We also believe that this is about respecting the dignity of all work and respecting the dignity of workers.

Second, we're doing this because we believe and know that workers are entitled to be paid wages commensurate with their value. The dignity of work must be recognized. The value of that work must be recognized in every way. That is not just about thanking somebody for doing their job, but actually paying them commensurate with the value of their job.

So, this is our approach to the -- the task force. And basically, for the President and me and so many of us -- Marty -- all of us who have dedicated ourselves to public service -- this is the work of recognizing the importance of the work, the impact it can have on our entire nation, and the importance then of protecting the workers to do it.

So, today we are announcing two new administration policies that will help improve, basically, what we must do to protect workers but specifically to remove barriers to organizing in the federal workplace.

And so, one, we -- as it relates to new hires -- have decided and are committed to making sure that they will be told at the time of being hired if they are eligible to join a union. They will be given contact information. And they will be informed of their rights.

We'd like to believe that this happens every time, but we know it doesn't. So, this is something we're announcing today, which is a new policy from our administration to help remove barriers to organizing in the workplace. Because if folks don't know their rights, if they're not informed of their rights, how can they fight to protect their rights? How can we enforce those rights?

The second is, as it relates to current workers, we're going to ensure that all current workers are reminded that they are eligible to join a union.

So, for current workers, we're going to ensure that they are reminded if they are eligible to join a union. Because, again, we have folks who have been working in the federal government for years who, during the course of that time, may not have been informed. And we want to make sure that they know now if they didn't know before.

And all of this is just part of our broader strategy to make the federal government a model employer. And we call on all employers to make similar steps in doing the work of protecting workers, because we recognize the nobility of the work.

The federal government is the largest employer in the United States of America. We know that this effort is going to impact, therefore, a lot of people. But we also know that, by example, we can hopefully encourage all workplaces, all industries to look at what is in the best interest of productivity; in the best interest of morale; and in the best interest, of course, of, again, valuing the dignity of work.

So, in that way, we do believe this is not only going to impact a large number of people who make up the federal workforce, but this will be a model of what all industries have the capacity and the ability, if not the imperative, to do.

And with that, I want to now introduce an incredible public servant -- our Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh.

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President in a Roundtable with Unionized Federal Sector Workers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353045

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives