President Biden is quickly making good on his vow to be the most “pro-union” president in U.S. history, firing Trump appointees perceived as hostile to labor and making it official U.S. policy to promote union organizing and collective bargaining.
Within hours of taking office, Mr. Biden fired Peter Robb as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after Mr. Robb refused to resign nearly a year before his term expired.
“That’s an individual who was not carrying out the objectives of the NLRB,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked whether Mr. Biden was trying to “purge” Trump officials. “So they’re no longer in their position. We’ll make those decisions as needed.”
Alice Stock, Mr. Robb’s No. 2 who had been installed as acting general counsel, was also out of a job by the end of the week.
Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said it looked like the Biden administration was quickly getting to work on “rewarding their friends in Big Labor.”
“President Biden‘s continuous calls for unity and civil discourse upon taking his oath of office are already proving to be empty aspirations,” said Ms. Foxx, the top Republican on the education and labor committee.
Mr. Biden also signed an executive order Friday to unwind several labor-related orders from former President Trump, including one that made it easier to fire certain federal employees.
The order said it’s the policy of the United States “to protect, empower, and rebuild the career Federal workforce.”
“It is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining,” the order said. “The Federal Government should serve as a model employer.”
House Democrats hailed the move.
“We look forward to partnering with the new administration to ensure that collective bargaining, whistleblower protection and merit principles remain a foundation of the federal civil service,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat and Oversight and Reform Committee chairwoman.
Janet Yellen, who appears on track to be confirmed as Mr. Biden‘s treasury secretary on Monday, told the Senate Finance Committee she looks forward to working with lawmakers on issues important to the labor movement.
“I would look forward to working with you and other members of Congress to advance proposals to strengthen worker organizing, collective bargaining, and unions,” Ms. Yellen said in response to a written question from Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat.
One of first lady Jill Biden‘s first events after the inaugural festivities was a virtual chat with the heads of the country’s two largest teachers unions.
“I’m ready to work with you — and the unions that support you every day,” Mrs. Biden said.
In one early test of Mr. Biden‘s loyalties to liberal interest groups, he sided with environmentalists over labor groups in moving to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas questioned Pete Buttigieg, Mr. Biden‘s pick to lead the Department of Transportation, over the decision at Mr. Buttigieg’s confirmation hearing last week.
“With the stroke of a pen, President Biden has told those 11,000 workers — those union workers — your jobs are gone,” Mr. Cruz said. “Mr. Buttigieg, what do you say to those workers whose jobs have just been eliminated by presidential edict?”
Mr. Buttigieg replied that it will be important to ensure that Mr. Biden‘s “climate vision” leads to net positive job gains.
“The answer is that we are very eager to see those workers continue to be employed in good paying union jobs, even if they might be different ones,” he said.