How Biden Can Move Its Economic Agenda Without Congress

According to Benjamin I. Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School, the council could also invoke a legal provision that allows the federal government to cede jurisdiction to states to regulate labor in certain industries. That could allow a state like California or Washington to make an arrangement in which gig workers, with the help of a union, negotiate wages and benefits in that state with companies, a process known as sectoral negotiations.

Under such a system, a union would have to show the support of a fraction of the workers in the industry, such as 15 or 20 percent, to negotiate with multiple gig companies on behalf of all workers. By contrast, federal law would typically require the union to gain majority support from the workers it wanted to represent, a daunting challenge in a high-turnover industry, such as DIY work.

Other labor experts, such as Wilma B. Liebman, who led the labor council in the Obama administration, affirm that the council can relinquish its authority to states, but are more skeptical that it would do so in the case of handymen.

The federal government, through its control over the Medicaid program, could accomplish something similar for home care workers, who usually work independently, or for small institutions that have little power to raise wages because states set rates for their services. The agencies sometimes aggressively oppose union action for fear that letting the workers negotiate for higher wages will put them at a competitive disadvantage.

A handful of Democratic-leaning states, such as Washington, have addressed this problem by allowing workers to negotiate with the state on rate increases that would effectively apply across the industry, removing the downside that a single agency would face if it would unilaterally increase wages.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents home care workers across the country, believes the Biden administration could encourage other states to create such industry-wide bargaining arrangements – for example, by making additional money available to states that follow this approach . Hundreds of thousands of additional home care workers could benefit from this.

The federal government, under a provision in the Medicaid Act that requires states to keep payments high enough to ensure an adequate supply of homecare workers, could also intervene directly to provide wages and benefits for those workers. to increase.