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Labor/ESG on President Biden's Priority List

President Biden prioritizes labor and ESG policies, but some labor groups and union workers complain about stalled progress, while the GOP-led efforts to ban ESG factors in federal retirement plans fails.
Apr 18, 2023

President Biden is often hailed as the most pro-labor president in generations. He has made worker rights and environment, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies a centerpiece of his administration. There are provisions relating to protecting workers and ESG in the American Rescue Plan, Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the Chips and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as executive orders and rules.   

However, after the bipartisan enactment of the COVID-19 and infrastructure bills, some labor groups and union workers complain that progress on labor issues has stalled. Many are disappointed with Biden’s interventionist actions to avert a rail strike last fall, the failure of the comprehensive Build Back Better plan, and the lack of significant immigration reform.  

To compound the challenge, combatting inflation has taken center stage, and the top job at the Labor Department needs to be filled. Former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh exited his post in February to become executive director for the NHL players’ union. His deputy secretary, Julie Su, was nominated to take his place. Su has extensive knowledge of labor as she worked under Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) as the secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. That experience means she’ll face a contentious confirmation process as Senate Republicans have vowed to scrutinize her record closely. At this same time, some Senate Democrats, such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT), have not publicly supported her confirmation. 

The House GOP majority and the close Democrat majority in the Senate should prevent any pro-union, anti-business measures from reaching the president’s desk. However, legislation passed with slim margins and contrary to the administration’s agenda have little chance of becoming law.  

ESG ban bill fails 

President Biden issued his first veto of his presidency last month when he refused to sign a joint resolution approved by Congress to effectively reinstate the Trump administration’s ban on federal fund managers of retirement plans, considering factors such as climate change, social impacts, or pending lawsuits when making investment choices. 

The GOP proposal cleared Congress on March 1st when the Senate voted50-46 to adopt the measure. Sens. Manchin and Tester joined Senate Republicans to overcome a filibuster of the bill. The House approved the bill earlier but did not have the votes to override the president’s veto. 

Even though this action failed on the federal level, there are similar GOP-led efforts in states like Texas, Florida, and West Virginia.  

AMT is following these issues and their impact on the industry. Check back for additional actions reported here.  

Amber Thomas
Vice President, Advocacy
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