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Labor Day: A Time to Celebrate America’s Workers and Unions

For more than 125 years, the United States has held the first Monday in September as an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. It’s a time for parades and barbeques across the country — and also, a time to recognize the importance of the people whose hard work allows our society to flourish, and the unions who fight for safe working conditions, fair pay, and adequate benefits. From fighting for $15 minimum wages in cities across the country, to demanding a humane work week for labor-intensive occupations, to helping improve workplace safety for frontline workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, unions seek to strengthen the foundation for all American workers. The federal government is proud to be a union employer. At least fifty-seven percent of our workforce — over 1.2 million people — are represented by unions. These are the postal carriers who deliver our mail come rain or shine. They’re the VA nurses who care for our veterans, and the DoD aircraft mechanics who support our military missions abroad. They’re the USDA food inspectors who ensure our meat and poultry products at the grocery store are safe. And they’re in every community across this country. In fact, 80 percent of all federal jobs are outside of the DC beltway, so chances are you will be impacted by a federally employed union member at some point today. The Biden-Harris Administration understands how important it is that we honor these contributions and so many more, which is why we’re working to remove barriers and obstacles in federal workplaces that impede the ability of public servants to join a union. This includes providing information about the right federal employees have to join a union at every stage of the employment process, from the day they apply for a job until the day they retire; and sharing how federal employees can contact their union representative at any time. At OPM, we are proud that when President Biden decided to write a new chapter with federal employee unions, he handed us the pen. Through our role on the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, our team developed ten strategies to remove barriers unions face in the federal workplace, and delivered those recommendations to President Biden in the White House Task Force on Worker Empowerment Report. Five of these strategies are already making a difference at agencies across the government by increasing unions’ ability to communicate with federal employees; streamlining the process to become a dues-paying member; providing direction for agencies to better train managers and supervisors about neutrality in union organizing campaigns; removing obstacles to exposure of both employees and applicants to unions; and improving communications with federal bargaining unit employees. And my message to our labor union partners and the public servants they represent is that we’re just as excited for what’s still to come! So this Labor Day, I encourage you to join me and the Biden-Harris Administration in celebrating the contributions of organized labor, and the progress unions have brought for American workers. Federal union employees are a perfect example of the impact labor has every day, and with four-out-of-five federal jobs in communities far and wide across the country — and even around the globe — there’s a great union-represented federal job waiting for you if you’re interested, too. So join us — the federal workforce, and federal employee unions — in meeting America’s needs every day. And have a happy, safe, and reflective Labor Day in honor of the incredible contributions that workers and their unions make! -Kiran Ahuja, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management

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