Wins for Workers: Legislation and Policy We Helped Get Passed

Elected officials and those they appoint continually make decisions that impact our bargaining ability, job security and more. Read on for recent actions that haven’t always made the headlines.


Pensions of 120,000 active and retired members protected.

The American Rescue Plan provided many needed resources to help struggling workers and communities across the nation. One of its most significant provisions is a resolution to a decade-long battle to shore up multiemployer pensions that were in distress from unfair trade, financial crisis and other factors.[1]



Once-in-a-generation win on infrastructure investment.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) became law on November 15, 2021, during a signing ceremony at the White House that began with a speech from a USW member. This law is an investment in our roads, bridges, ports, water systems, broadband, and more. It is creating and sustaining USW jobs found throughout the infrastructure supply chain, while improving the safety and health of our communities and our nation’s economic competitiveness.[2],[3]



Pro-worker direction at the National Labor Relations Board.

Throughout the previous administration, we saw a continual weakening of workers’ rights at the hands of the National Labor Relations Board and its general counsel, Peter Robb. In moves large and small, they chipped away at our bargaining ability, gave more power to companies, and generally weakened unions. As one of the current President’s first moves on Inauguration Day, he forced Robb to vacate the post.[4] Since then, the President appointed a new general counsel and additional board members with union backgrounds. Their work is rebalancing the Board away from pro-corporate interests and toward workers’ rights.[5],[6] The NLRB has been underfunded for years while their caseload grows. Our union helped secure more federal funding in 2022 so more work can be done to protect workers.[7]  


Lower prescription drug costs.  

For the first time, the federal government is negotiating for lower drug prices for seniors on Medicare thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA). Other benefits of the law include inflation caps for Medicare prescription drugs, improvements to prescription benefits, and a cap of $35 for insulin. The law also prevented a premium spike for Affordable Care Act enrollees.[8]



American manufacturing commitment and job growth.

An executive order set out standards for strengthening domestic manufacturing requirements for federally-funded projects, which benefits many USW workplaces in the supply chain. It also created a Made in America office to support the work and scrutinize requests to bypass the rules.[9] A subsequent law made the office permanent so that it can’t be eliminated in the future. A series of additional recent laws, from the IIJA to the IRA, are strongly prioritizing using domestically-made products for the projects being funded. The IRA is also sparking investment in many USW facilities that will help them remain competitive for the future. Manufacturing employment is growing as a result of these efforts, gaining nearly 800,000 jobs since the start of 2021.[10]



Inflation and supply chain solutions.

One of the largest supply chain vulnerabilities facing the U.S. is the shortage of semiconductor chips, those little powerhouses that are needed for every “smart” application in vehicles to tvs to cell phones. While this tech was invented in the U.S., we ceded this industry to Asia, where roughly 80 percent of the chips are now made. The shortages are a driver of inflation. For instance, a lack of chips has meant delays of new vehicles and rising auto prices. The bipartisan Chips and Science Act became law in August 2022, investing $54 billion into rebuilding the industry here.  Companies are already making investments that are expected to result in tens of thousands of new jobs.[11],[12] Another supply chain vulnerability became clear in the early days of the pandemic as frontline nurses and other health care staff turned to grocery bags and reusing masks due to critical shortages of personal protective equipment. This was another industry that had largely left our shores. A new law is helping to onshore production.[13]  



Union members in key government roles.

Jim Frederick, the long-time assistant director and principal investigator for the USW’s Health, Safety and Environment Department, is helping to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Having one of our own, who understands our industries and our challenges, in a critical position safeguarding worker health and safety is excellent news for our union and working people everywhere.[14] The President’s appointments include many additional people who have been part of unions or worked with our union in the past.



USW health and safety priorities advance.

More than 5,000 workers in the U.S. are killed on the job each year, while an additional 100,000 die of occupational disease and millions are injured.[15] When laws to protect workers become outdated, government agencies can – but don’t always – add new scientific, economic or industry expertise to update them through the rulemaking process, resulting in new standards (a.k.a. regulations or rules). Recent wins on USW issues include rules that will protect workers in mining from silica exposure; address unsafe staffing levels in long-term care facilities, which protects both our health care workers and patients; expand rights for workers to choose who will represent them during safety investigations; and ban ongoing uses of asbestos to protect people from cancer.[16],[17],[18],[19], [20] In a win for USW members in oil refineries, chemical plants, and other workplaces utilizing significant volumes of chemicals, OSHA has updated their enforcement manual for process safety management for the first time since 1994.[21] Other priorities are advancing in the rulemaking process, including a proposed rule on workplace heat exposure.[22]



Trade actions.

Our union aggressively utilizes our trade laws to protect our industries when needed. In March 2024, we led an effort to challenge China’s predatory practices to dominate global shipbuilding and transportation. One month later we passed the first hurdle in the case when the Administration agreed to launch an investigation. A successful outcome will grow USW jobs in the supply chain and secure this critical industry in the U.S. This spring, the President announced more tariffs on products from China including steel, aluminum, semiconductors, EVs, batteries, critical minerals and other products, while the Department of Commerce issued a final rule to improve their enforcement capabilities in cases involving dumping and subsidies.[23], [24]


Updated July 3, 2024.

[1] Forbes, How the American Rescue Plan Will Help Nearly a Million Retirees and Workers, March 12, 2021.

[2] The White House, Fact Sheet, November 15, 2022.

[3] USW Blog, Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow, November 3, 2023.

[4] Bloomberg Law, Biden Moves to Oust Top Labor Board Attorney Peter Robb, January 20, 2021.

[5] In These Times, Jennifer Abruzzo, the NLRB’s General Counsel, Is Labor’s Best Legal Friend, September 27, 2021.

[6] Economic Policy Institute, The Biden Board: How President Biden’s NLRB appointees are restoring and supporting workers’ rights, 2024.

[7] NLRB, Statement on NLRB Funding in the 2023 Omnibus Spending Bill, December 29, 2022.

[8] CNET, Inflation Reduction Act: 3 Ways It Can Save You Money on Medical Bills, August 15, 2022.

[9] The White House, Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers, January 25, 2021.

[10] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Manufacturing Employment, July 3, 2024.

[11] The White House, One Year of the Chips and Science Act, August 9, 2023.

[12] USW Blog, Building the Essential Supply Chain, January 11, 2023.

[13] Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Bipartisan Make PPE in America Act Now Law, November 15, 2021.

[14] USW Press Release, USW Applauds Worker-Friendly Choices for OSHA Leadership Roles, January 21, 2021.

[15] AFL-CIO, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, 2024, April 23, 2024.

[16] USW Press Release, USW Applauds MSHA Update on Workplace Silica Standards, April 16, 2024.

[17] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Minimum Staffing Final Rule, April 22, 2024.

[18] USW Blog, Empowering the Caregivers, September 14, 2023.

[19] USW Press Release, USW Applauds Final OSHA Rule on Workplace Safety and Health Investigations, March 29, 2024. 

[20] Environmental Protection Agency, Biden-Harris Administration finalizes ban on ongoing use of asbestos to protect people from cancer, March 18, 2024.

[21] Bloomberg Law, OSHA Issues Major Chemical Safety Enforcement Guide Changes, January 29, 2024.

[22] USW Press Release, USW Welcomes Life-Saving OSHA Heat Standard, July 2, 2024.

[23] USW Rapid Response, InfoAlert: Protecting Our Job Security, July 3, 2024.

[24] Federal Register, Regulations Improving and Strengthening the Enforcement of Trade Remedies Through the Administration of the AD and CVD Laws, March 25, 2024.