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June 2023

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President Joe Biden has built his economic agenda around workers, as he laid out in a major speech in February before pumped-up Local 26 members in Lanham, Md., above.

Construction is booming. Jobs are soaring. Manufacturing is returning to American shores for the first time in a generation. Hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested to modernize the grid and employ electrical workers for decades to come. Labor laws have a new bite. Multi-employer pensions are safe.

For workers broadly and the IBEW specifically, it is a White House track record unlike any compiled in nearly a century.

IBEW leaders say President Joe Biden met every goal they set for him on behalf of the union's 775,000 members and retirees during his first two years, and they are confident he can achieve even more.

"We've had friends in the White House, but no one has ever had our backs like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris," International President Kenneth W. Cooper said April 25 after the candidates announced their run for a second term.

"It's impossible to count the ways they have made workers' lives better. Imagine what they can do with another four years," he said. "The IBEW couldn't be prouder to endorse them for re-election in 2024."

As Biden stressed that afternoon to an audience of thousands of building trades unionists, the administration's work isn't done.

"I look at the world through the eyes of Scranton and Claymont, Delaware, where I grew up," Biden told the legislative conference of North America's Building Trades Unions. "Through the eyes of the working people I grew up with. Through the eyes of people like you who have been able to make it because you're union.

"We had to fight hard to get prevailing wage, Butch Lewis [pension security], Davis-Bacon project labor agreements," he said. "We had to fight like hell, and we made a lot of progress because of you. But there's more to do, so let's finish the job."

The IBEW endorsed Biden early in his 2020 campaign, during which he famously pledged "to be the most pro-union president you've ever seen."

"Promises made and promises kept," Cooper said, explaining how heavily Biden relied on the IBEW's expertise along the way.

"Joe Biden didn't just want the IBEW's support. He wanted our advice, especially when it came to energy, jobs, and infrastructure.

"A lot of what we talked about with him ended up in the American Rescue Plan, in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act," Cooper said. "We got things into those bills that with any other president would have been mere dreams — like the Inflation Reduction Act's penalties for intentionally violating prevailing wage requirements to the tune of $10,000 per worker.

"Per worker," he said, emphasizing the point. "That's a penalty with actual teeth."

Biden has tackled his agenda from every direction. He selected Cabinet members who share his vision and are carrying it out across the federal government; restored a pro-worker majority to the National Labor Relations Board; appointed union members to key policy positions on staff and advisory boards; and issued executive orders that protect workers' rights and safety.

Together with Democrats on Capitol Hill, he also pushed the historic bills that Cooper cited through Congress:

  • Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act just seven weeks after taking office, providing urgent pandemic relief for unemployed workers and a third stimulus check, as well as funding transit system capital projects that continue to employ IBEW members. Most critically, one of the union's highest priorities was folded into the bill: The Butch Lewis Act, shoring up troubled multiemployer union pension plans and protecting them against political attacks that threatened even healthy plans like the IBEW's.
  • Passed in November 2021, the $2.1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is expected to generate 1.5 million jobs annually for the next decade. It is the largest investment since World War II in America's highways, bridges, ports, railways and other infrastructure — including, as Biden frequently touts, a nationwide electric vehicle charging network being built by IBEW members. Other projects include water systems, energy and power generation and delivery, and broadband expansion.
  • The $52 billion CHIPS and Science Act to spur U.S. production of semiconductor chips is part of Biden's agenda for reviving the manufacturing sector and fortifying the American supply chain. As soon as the bill became law in August 2022, tech companies began announcing their own multibillion-dollar investments to build massive chip factories, including two $100 billion facilities in Ohio and New York that will be built by IBEW members working under project labor agreements.
  • The Inflation Reduction Act, also passed last August, is a prime example of Biden's attention to policies vital to IBEW members. It includes hundreds of billions in job-creating tax credits for contractors to build clean energy infrastructure. But they come with strings attached: strong labor standards with painful consequences for lawbreakers. In addition to the apprentice rules and steep fines that Cooper noted, contractors also must pay prevailing wages. Violations could cost them $5,000 to $10,000 per worker per day.

Workers' rights across the board are having a renaissance under Biden, after decades of attacks that got worse in the years before he took office.

At that time, the NLRB was controlled by union-busting lawyers and a general counsel so toxic to workers that Biden fired him immediately after being sworn in as president. Today's board and its top lawyer are working on multiple fronts to overturn harmful precedents and set new ones that protect workers against employer abuses.

Biden also established a one-of-a-kind White House task force. Chaired by Harris, the panel is researching and prescribing ways for the federal government to encourage the growth of unions, as directed by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.

The administration also strongly supports the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the most substantial pro-worker, pro-union legislation since the 88-year-old NLRA.

Cooper said the previous administration "talked a big game but never delivered anything for the IBEW — not infrastructure, not bringing back American manufacturing, labor standards and bargaining rights. Nothing."

"Today, we've got a president who puts working people at the center of his agenda," he said. "There is nobody — nobody — more important to Joe Biden than American workers."


President Joe Biden electrified the 40th IBEW Convention in Chicago in 2022 as he detailed the job-creating $1 trillion infrastructure law and other pro-IBEW victories since he took office.


The IBEW's most high-profile supporter, President Biden makes a point of meeting members and visiting locals. Biden touring the IBEW-NECA training center at Cincinnati Local 212 in July 2021.


Biden chatting with New Castle, Del., members working on Hurricane Ida recovery on Labor Day 2021.


Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris cheer Boston Local 103 member Lovette Jacobs at a White House event celebrating passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in September 2022.

Credit: The Biden administration