Biden Labor Department Relies on Union-Funded Think Tanks To Push Pro-Union Message

President Biden at a UAW strike in Detroit (Reuters)
March 18, 2024

A Department of Labor agency that touts the "importance" of labor unions to "workers and communities" relies heavily on research from union-funded think tanks, calling into question the legitimacy of the information.

The Department of Labor’s Worker Organizing Resource and Knowledge (WORK) Center, which the Biden administration launched in August 2023, bills itself as the "premiere online resource" for information on labor unions. It offers guides on how to organize workplace unions, and data that tout the benefits of unionization.

But those data come from think tanks like the Economic Policy Institute, which says "Unions Promote Racial Equality" and "More Worker Power is the Only Sure Path to Safe Work and Pandemic Recovery." The Center for Economic Policy Research’s study, "Unionization Confers Significant Advantages for Hispanic Workers," is also listed on the site, as is a 2016 report from the left-wing Center for American Progress.

The title of that study, "Unions Help the Middle Class, No Matter the Measure," highlights the overlap between the Biden administration, union leaders, and progressive groups. The president frequently remarks that "unions built the middle class," and has aggressively courted the union vote. He hosted United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain at the State of the Union address, and joined auto workers on the picket line in Michigan last year.

The Center for American Progress received between $100,000 and $500,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union in 2022. Biden has appointed the Center’s cofounders, Neera Tanden and John Podesta, to high-ranking positions in his administration.

The WORK Center does not disclose that labor unions fund many of the think tanks cited on the resource page. The Economic Policy Institute receives 14 percent of its funding from unions. And its chairwoman is Elizabeth Shuler, the president of the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in the country. The National Education Association funds the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Absent from the WORK Center’s literature is any critique of unions, a pattern that, according to one workers’ rights organization, leaves an incomplete picture of unionization.

"Workers should know they're only getting half the story from the Department of Labor," said Charlyce Bozzello, communications director at the Center for Union Facts.

"Instead of pushing union-funded studies, the Department of Labor should be making it easier for union members and the public to access information on how unions spend members' dues," Bozzello told the Washington Free Beacon. "Accountability and transparency are what American workers need, not propaganda."

The WORK Center relies on other questionable sources, including a ranking of "Best and Worst States to Work" from Oxfam, a nonprofit that has been linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist group.

Unions have not shied away from terrorist sympathizing in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Amazon Labor Union president Christian Smalls tweeted support for Hamas weeks after the attacks, as did a union of Starbucks workers. Starbucks threatened that union, Starbucks Workers United, with legal action in response to its pro-Hamas tweets following a Free Beacon report.

The Department of Labor did not respond to a request for comment.