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Teamsters pressure Democrats ahead of inauguration

HEAD OF PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN’S inauguration on Tuesday, the 1.4-million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters is hoping to remind Biden — and the Democratic leaders now in control of Congress — of the union’s priorities. It plans to launch a grassroots “Build Back Stronger” campaign today to push for seven pages of policy changes that organized labor has been seeking for years, according to a copy of the proposal shared with Morning Shift.

Topping the list: a fix for the multiemployer pension crisis and beefed-up workplace safety enforcement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

SO WHAT’S DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND? Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa tells MS he’s hoping to capitalize on Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate. “Everything we tried to do over the past years, we always ran into Mitch McConnell, and he stopped us every time,” Hoffa told MS in an interview.

Congress has been slow to address the insolvency of the multiple giant pension funds negotiated by labor unions across entire industries. The federally chartered Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. currently insures the plans, but the failure of the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund alone would bankrupt the agency. Absent congressional action, the agency is projected to be insolvent by 2026.

The Teamsters are calling on Congress to either adopt plans that would allow the PBGC to "partition" these multiemployer pensions and take control of a part of the plan’s responsibilities, or create a new Treasury agency empowered to issue bond-backed loans to faltering plans.

“The president [and] the Democrats all know this is our No. 1 priority,” Hoffa told MS. “This affects not only Teamsters, but many many working families.”

The union is also calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue workplace safety regulations for Covid-19, as well as for heat and ergonomic hazards. In addition, the Teamsters want Biden to help pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, both of which would broadly expand workers’ ability to form unions, as well as direct the NLRB to allow for union elections to be held remotely.

More broadly, the Teamsters want the Biden administration to roll back President Donald Trump’s recent efforts to make it easier for companies to classify their workers as independent contractors, and want the Labor Department to expand the number of workers entitled to overtime pay.

This article originally appeared on POLITICO

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