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Biden Calls for Bipartisan Support of Workplace Policies in State of the Union

The united states capitol building in washington, dc.

​In his State of the Union address last night, President Joe Biden urged the enactment of paid family and medical leave, immigration reform, and police reform and called for an end to noncompete agreements.

Highlighting his administration's bipartisan achievements, Biden said he has signed more than 300 bipartisan laws since becoming president, but he also noted that there's more work to be done by legislators in both political parties.

Biden urged the nation to come together on immigration reform and make it a bipartisan issue.

Biden also called for police reform. "Give law enforcement the training they need, hold them to higher standards and help them succeed in keeping everyone safe," Biden said.

He added later in the speech, "Let's also make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family and medical leave, and affordable child care that will enable millions more people to go to work."

He also announced new standards to require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in the U.S.

" 'Buy American' has been the law of the land since 1933. But for too long, past administrations have found ways to get around it. Not anymore," Biden said. "On my watch, American roads, American bridges and American highways will be made with American products."

Biden asked Congress to make the wealthy and big corporations "begin to pay their fair share" and promised not to raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 annually.

In addition, he sought:

  • Enactment of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.
  • Restoration of the full child tax credit, "which gave tens of millions of parents some breathing room and cut child poverty in half," he stated.
  • Raises for public school teachers.
  • Access to preschool for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds.
  • Job training and job placement for veterans and their spouses as they return to civilian life.

"Let's finish the job—connect students to career opportunities starting in high school and provide two years of community college, some of the best career training in America, in addition to being a pathway to a four-year degree," Biden said. "Let's offer every American the path to a good career whether they go to college or not."

Biden called for recognition of how far the nation has come in the fight against inflation and the pandemic, although he noted that both remain problems. Biden attributed inflation to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine disrupting energy and food supplies. "But we're better positioned than any country on Earth," he said. "We have more to do, but here at home, inflation is coming down."

Calling the state of the union "strong" near the end of his speech, the president stated, "I have never been more optimistic about the future of America."

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address.

Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh was the "designated survivor" from Biden's Cabinet during the State of the Union address, so he was not in attendance.

We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Biden Has Called for Nationwide Paid Family and Medical Leave

At a Feb. 2 press conference marking the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, Biden called for extended support for time-off benefits and announced he had signed a memorandum laying out a national program of paid family and medical leave for employees. The memo also sets out how federal agencies are to lead the way with expanded paid and unpaid leave for their workers.

(SHRM Online)

Inflation Has Eased but Is Still a Concern

Well-above-average inflation is still hurting workers, but data released Jan. 12 showed that inflation is continuing its slowdown—positive news that could cause ripple effects in the workplace and beyond if inflation continues to cool. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all items rose 6.5 percent for the 12 months ending in December 2022 before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. On a monthly basis, the CPI fell 0.1 percent in December, seasonally adjusted, after increasing 0.1 percent in November.

Despite the cooling seen in the last two months of 2022, the inflation rate remains significantly above its multiyear average, as well as above the Federal Reserve's target rate of 2 percent. From 1960 to 2021, the average inflation rate was 3.8 percent per year.

(SHRM Online)

COVID-19 Is on the Wane

The White House announced Jan. 30 that it intends to end the COVID-19 national and public health emergencies on May 11. "This wind down would align with the administration's previous commitments to give at least 60 days' notice prior to termination of the [public health emergency]," the White House statement said.


Immigration Reform

Biden also called on lawmakers during the State of the Union address to pass immigration reform that would allow a path to citizenship for "Dreamers"—undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, approximately 600,000 of whom participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Legislation to combine border restrictions with a path to citizenship for an estimated 2 million Dreamers was proposed at the end of last year but wasn't passed.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Oct. 5, 2022, that the DACA program is illegal but allowed the program to remain as-is while a review and likely appeal go forward.

(Reuters, The Hill and SHRM Online)

Police Reform

The Jan. 27 release of footage of Memphis, Tenn., police beating Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died from resulting injuries three days later, has renewed calls to pass federal police reform.

Nichols' parents attended the State of the Union address. Biden said Nichols' mother told him her son "was a beautiful soul" and that she hoped "something good will come from this."

Biden added, "What happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better. … Let's come together and finish the job on police reform."

(Vox and CNN)

Feds Push to End Noncompete Agreements

The Federal Trade Commission released a proposal on Jan. 5 to ban noncompete agreements that restrict mobility among employers. Some employers and attorneys are concerned the rule could hamper retention efforts and make companies' intellectual property vulnerable.

(SHRM Online)

Republican Response

In the Republican response to the State of the Union address, Sanders said, "Being a mom to three young children taught me not to believe every story I hear. So forgive me for not believing much of anything I heard tonight from President Biden. From out-of-control inflation and violent crime to the dangerous border crisis and threat from China, Biden and the Democrats have failed you." She contrasted herself, the current youngest governor in the nation, with Biden, the oldest president in U.S. history.

"I'm for freedom," she said. "He's for government control." Criticizing the administration as surrendering to a "woke mob," she said, "It's time for a change."


Secretary of Labor Walsh Expected to Resign

Following Biden's State of the Union address, Walsh is expected to resign to become head of the National Hockey League Players' Association, according to news reports.

"We appreciate Secretary Walsh's service and his willingness to sit down with SHRM to hear the concerns and priorities of the HR community," said SHRM Chief of Staff and Head of Public Affairs Emily M. Dickens. "It was an honor to welcome him to our Workplace Policy Conference and meet with him late last year at the Department of Labor. SHRM will continue engaging with his successor to see that federal regulations work for employers and employees alike."

Before the State of the Union address, Dickens shared a video to highlight SHRM's policy goals.

(SHRM Online


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