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Biden vows to end to anti-poaching and noncompete agreements

In his State of the Union Address, the president also called for easing the unionization process and guaranteeing workers certain family-related benefits.
President Biden / Photo: Shutterstock

President Biden pledged his administration’s support Tuesday night to ending the use of so-called anti-poaching agreements and other noncompete provisions that many restaurant employers use to discourage employees from jumping from payroll to payroll.

During his State of the Union Address, the president used the hypothetical example of a cashier at a burger restaurant being unable because of a noncompete provision to “take the same job at another burger place and make a few bucks more.

Biden has already taken action to prohibit employers from imposing limits on where employees can look for their next job. Last month he signed an executive order that urges the Federal Trade Commission to ban or at least put limits on noncompete agreements.

“For too long, workers have been getting stiffed, but not anymore,” Biden said.

His comments last night suggest the White House might seek additional action to outlaw noncompetes and a version peculiar to franchising, an anti-poaching stipulation.

Some restaurant chains specifically block their franchisees from recruiting the workers of fellow franchisees, arguing that the practice tends to drive up wages within the system. Some states have sought to block those anti-poaching agreements.

Biden noted that 30 million employees across all industries are limited by noncompete policies.

His criticism of the convention drew boos from the audience, a signal that the administration may have a difficult time pushing a ban through a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Biden’s vow to ban such provisions was one of several goals he set during the speech that would affect restaurants.

The president called for Congress to pass the PRO Act, a highly controversial piece of legislation that would simplify the process of unionizing an employer’s workforce.

“I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing,” Biden said. “Workers have a right to form a union.

A day before the State of the Union Address, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Starbucks had violated federal rules that govern what employers can do after employees take a first step toward unionizing.

Biden also called in passing for mandating “a living wage” for all workers, without setting a target level.

In addition, “let’s make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family and medical leave, affordable childcare,” the president said to applause. “That’s going to enable millions of more people to go and stay at work.”

But he did not say how the federal government should ensure universal access to that assistance.

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