Over the past two weeks, President Joe Biden has made history with a quartet of substantive announcements intended to support workers, educators, and our environment.
Support for UAW Striking Workers
This Tuesday, Biden made history as the first sitting U.S. president to walk a picket line in support of striking workers. The United Auto Workers (UAW), a union that represents 146,000 automotive manufacturing workers, authorized a strike involving 18,300 of their members after their contract expired Sept. 14. Union members are fighting for a better contract from the big three automakers: Ford Motors, General Motors, and Stellantis. The automakers have printed money over the past year, but they have failed to pass on those record-breaking profits to their workers, the drivers of those profits.
Office of Gun Violence Prevention
Last Thursday, Biden announced the formation of the first-ever federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris. The office will focus on implementing executive and legislative action, including the historic Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed by President Biden last year. The passage of that law was spurred by the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 students and two teachers were killed by a lone gunman wielding two assault weapons.
In the White House’s announcement, Biden stated, “I’ll continue to urge Congress to take commonsense actions that the majority of Americans support like enacting universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But in the absence of that sorely-needed action, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention along with the rest of my Administration will continue to do everything it can to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our families, our communities, and our country apart.”
Pollution-Reducing School Buses
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the Biden-Harris administration made $500 million available from the Clean School Bus rebate competition. This second round of founding builds on previous investments of nearly $1 billion into the program. The program funds would replace school buses across the country with a new fleet of electric school buses that will reduce pollution, protect student and educator health, and will save sch
American Climate Corps
Rounding out the historic announcements of the last two weeks, last Wednesday, Biden announced the formation of the American Climate Corps, a workforce training and service initiative designed to prepare young people for jobs in fields fighting the climate crisis. The idea for a Civilian Climate Corps has been pushed by environmentalists for years. In his announcement, Biden specifically said the program is intended to create well-paying, union jobs.
Looming Government Shutdown
These announcements come at a time that extreme Republicans in the House of Representatives are holding the government hostage. Far-right members of the House Freedom Caucus have pushed the Republican Caucus to reject spending levels that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy previously agreed to in May during negotiations about raising the U.S. debt ceiling.
In order to avoid a government shutdown, Congress must pass a bill that Biden can sign into law before midnight Saturday. So far, the House has been unable to pass a bill that would be agreeable to both the Senate and the president. If Republicans fail to pass such a bill, thousands of federal workers — including some AFT members — will be furloughed and many federal programs will come to a halt, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides nutrition assistance to nearly half the babies born in the United States.