Jill Biden is only the 3rd US first lady to be a union member. Here’s why that matters.

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President Joe Biden calls himself a “union guy” to describe his support for workers, but his wife Jill Biden is the one who holds the membership card.

“Dr. B,” as her students at Northern Virginia Community College know her, belongs to the 3-million-member National Education Association, the nation’s largest union.

Along with being the first president’s wife to continue her professional career while at the White House, she’s also among just a few first ladies to be union members, following Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan.

It’s a distinction that’s not only historic but fully in line with the administration’s pro-union stance. It’s also a big lift to teachers unions that had a rough start with the Obama administration and then spent the past four years locked in battle after battle with the Trump administration. 

“She helps create the environment that, we’re working together on very complex and tough problems,” Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, told Insider. “She creates trust.”

For union members, it’s encouraging to have someone in the White House who understands their struggles. Biden, who has a doctorate in educational leadership, has taught for more than three decades at high schools, an adolescent psychiatric hospital, and community colleges. 

Unions constantly battled with former President Donald Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over policies teachers believed would dismantle public education and make schools unsafe during a pandemic. DeVos accused unions of protecting their jobs over the needs of students.

“With Dr. Jill, we have one of us fighting for our kids and for our schools,” NEA President Becky Pringle, said during a fundraiser with Biden in October.

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The White House has already been dispatching the first lady to schools as it works to reopen education institutions after months of remote learning and tensions between teachers unions and school districts.

Boosting the Biden administration’s credibility with unions

Jill Biden’s union membership is good PR as her husband aims to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” His decision to cancel the Keystone XL oil pipeline construction permit on his first day in office riled some union members who worried about job losses. But the president has taken multiple steps to appease and promote unions. 

His American Jobs Act aims to create more union jobs rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and it calls on Congress to pass union-backed legislation to protect workers’ right to organize. He tapped a Labor secretary, former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who is a former union leader. He also tweeted a video message supporting Amazon workers hoping to unionize in Alabama. 

Jill Biden’s NEA membership is meaningful as part of a pattern of labor ties and support that, together gives the administration credibility in union circles and will help during the midterm elections, said Brad Bannon, a pollster for Democrats, progressive issue groups and labor unions. Energized and organized union support will be crucial to protecting and expanding Democratic majorities in Congress, he said.

“She is going to be a key campaigner next year like she …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics

      

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