The Biden administration moves to make unions more accessible to federal contractors

A final rule will give union organizers access to federal property to "educate employees of private sector contractors working in these federal government facilities about the benefits of organizing, collective bargaining and union membership."

A final rule will give union organizers access to federal property to "educate employees of private sector contractors working in these federal government facilities about the benefits of organizing, collective bargaining and union membership." Chelsea Bland /AFGE

GSA is following through on carrying out a recommendation from the WH task force on worker organizing. 

Labor organizations will soon be able to access federal property to inform federal contractors about the perks of organizing, collective bargaining and unions. 

A final rule from the General Services Administration, which will take effect Friday, carries out one of the recommendations on ensuring union access for contractor employees from the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment’s report released in February 2022. President Biden established the task force via executive order in April 2021. 

“These revisions [to the Federal Management Regulation] will enable access to property under the direct custody and control of GSA, or property for which federal agencies are acting under a delegation of authority from GSA, for union organizers with the intent to educate employees of private sector contractors working in these federal government facilities about the benefits of organizing, collective bargaining and union membership,” said the text of the final rule. 

“The current [regulation] already provides an exception for union organizing activities for federal employees.” That is one of the six exemptions of the Federal Management Regulation on the general restriction “concerning soliciting, vending and debt collection in or on federal property.”

This final rule will not apply to contractor employees in spaces for the legislative and judicial branches of government. Labor organizations will have to follow the normal protocol for obtaining a security clearance if that is needed for entry. GSA is soliciting public comments on the rule over the next 60 days. 

This final rule also furthers the goals of Biden’s executive order on increasing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workforce issued in June 2021, according to GSA. “Unions can provide greater protection for employees in marginalized groups as they advocate for employees and allow for collective bargaining on behalf of marginalized employees who may not otherwise be comfortable with or able to do so on their own,” said the final rule.

“As we head into Labor Day Weekend, the Biden-Harris administration is renewing its commitment to worker organizing and empowerment, because it’s critical to building an economy that works for everybody,” GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a statement provided to Government Executive. “Today’s rule removes barriers to worker organizing and collective bargaining for federal contractors, allowing union membership to become more accessible.” 

Vice President Kamala Harris is chair of the White House Task force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is the vice chair. The task force also has representation from 22 federal agencies and offices. Their report has almost 70 recommendations to remove long-term barriers and obstacles to organizing. 

One of the goals of the president’s management agenda, first launched last November, is to “make every federal job a good job, where all employees are engaged, supported, heard, and empowered, with opportunities to learn, grow, join a union and have an effective voice in their workplaces through their union, and thrive throughout their careers.”

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site ("The Biden Administration Moves to Make Unions More Accessible to Federal Contractors.") 

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