By Catherine Conlan
One of the difficulties of rebuilding public service, policy and official relationships after a regime like Trump’s is that it’s easy to hail the successor a tremendous success for meeting a pretty low bar. But as Joe Biden announces his personnel decisions for transition teams, it’s hard not to feel cautiously optimistic from a Labor perspective about what might be in store during his term.
Saying, “Well, at least he’s better than the other guy” is a great way to settle for mediocrity. But Biden has been a staunch ally for Labor through his career as well — and as he and Kamala Harris assemble their transition team, it’s important for Labor to watch for ways to leverage this new access.
Part of the transition work is assembling agency review teams that examine the various government agencies to ensure the new administration is ready to get to work as soon as possible. One can only imagine what these teams will find in the coming weeks, as we know the wreckage of various agencies has been a goal of Trump’s chaos-agent approach throughout his term.
In any case, the perspective of working people will be a strong one, as Biden tapped more than two dozen Labor leaders to help on these teams. Among those who will be working to keep workers’ perspective during the transition are:
Jim Sauber, chief of staff at the National Association of Letter Carriers, at the United States Postal Service agency review. Sauber has been a voice against privatization of the U.S. Postal Service for some time — imagine! Having him on the agency review team for the USPS could help shore up one of the most successful services in the nation, one that’s drawn fire lately because of deliberate mismanagement.
Sarah Nolan, health policy expert with SEIU, at the Department of Health and Human Services agency review. Nolan has been a champion of a Medicare-for-all-style health care plan and her work on the HHS team could serve as a catalyst for new models of health insurance as the nation continues to struggle with unemployment (and loss of health benefits) during the pandemic.
Beth Antunez, Shital Shah, Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, all AFT; and Donna Harris-Aikens, NEA, for the Department of Education agency review. After Betsy DeVos’ burn-and-pillage approach to both the department and public education in general, having union voices at the table can’t do anything but help teachers across the nation.
Jennifer Abruzzo, CWA; Jessica Chu, ATU; Micheal Hazard, UA; Nadia Marin-Molina, National Day Laborer Organizing Network; Shaun O’Brien, AFSCME; Patricia Smith, National Employment Law Project; Lynn Rhinehart, Economic Policy Institute, all for the Department of Labor agency review. A great balance of unions, plus allies from economic policy think-tanks (you’ll often see data and writings from EPI in the pages of the Labor World). Labor experts examining the Department of Labor. Amazing.
A leader from the AFL-CIO at the Treasury review. Transport workers and Teamsters helping out with the Department of Transportation review. A member of the Air Line Pilots Association as a part of the NASA agency review. Someone from UFCW in the Ag Department review.
Of course, these are short-lived positions, only meant to last through the transition and by their very nature focused on temporary issues. But what a foundation to lay for what could be a promising relationship with Labor throughout the next four years.
Biden knows unions help
By Catherine Conlan