One year ago, when President Biden signed the Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy on July 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor began work on a number of initiatives, as part of a whole-of-government effort to promote competition.
A competitive labor market is necessary to ensure workers have a level playing field and receive fair wages. We know that workers, families, and the economy do better when businesses compete, and employers do not restrict workers’ mobility to find better jobs. The department is committed to continuing to collaborate across the government to address anti-competitive behavior and protect workers.
In the last year, we’ve taken concrete steps to eliminate anti-competitive employer practices that can harm workers’ bargaining power and reduce wages and benefits. In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the partnership between the two agencies. The increased cooperation from the partnership is enabling greater information sharing and enforcement activity and training, with the goals of better protecting workers from employer collusion, ensuring compliance with labor laws, and promoting competitive labor markets and worker mobility.
We also collaborated with the Department of Treasury on the release of their March 2022 report on The State of Labor Market Competition. I participated in a roundtable with other cabinet officials to hear directly from workers who have experienced anti-competitive barriers firsthand. To address unfair compensation practices that harm workers, especially women and workers of color, we also supported the Executive Order on Advancing Economy, Efficiency, and Effectiveness in Federal Contracting by Promoting Pay Equity and Transparency, signed by President Biden on March 15, 2022.
On March 21, 2022, our Solicitor’s Office filed an amicus brief with the National Labor Relations Board in Ralph’s Grocery, a case concerning confidentiality provisions in mandatory arbitration agreements. The department argued that such provisions discourage workers from talking to their coworkers about their experiences, from taking collective action, from bringing future complaints, and even from cooperating with department investigations thereby hindering the effective enforcement of worker protection laws.
To protect whistleblowers from retaliation when reporting criminal antitrust violations, we are also enforcing and implementing the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2019 .
The department will continue work on these topics and more to empower and protect workers under President Biden’s Executive Order.
Marty Walsh is the U.S. Secretary of Labor.