President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned on Monday of a “very dark winter” ahead and called on Congress to pass a large economic stimulus package immediately to help workers, businesses, and state and local governments struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, according to The New York Times.
Mr. Biden gave his first major policy speech since he won the election after participating in a virtual meeting with business and union leaders, including the chief executives of General Motors, Microsoft, Target and the Gap and the head of the United Auto Workers. The group, meeting over Zoom, discussed how to safely reopen the American economy when virus cases continue to surge across the nation, prompting renewed lockdowns.
The president-elect’s decision to highlight his meeting with labor groups and businesses underscores the immense challenge facing his administration, which will have to contend with a spike in coronavirus infections and deaths, a faltering economic recovery and a public weary of restrictions on everyday life.
Many businesses continue to struggle with reduced activity and are eager to bring workers — and customers — back, while unions continue to insist that corporations don’t needlessly expose workers to risk.
Participants said the discussion, which was closed to reporters, focused heavily on how to keep businesses operating and on workplace safety, including union leaders’ push for enhanced worker protections through the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“The majority of the discussion with G.M. was on Covid protocols and the importance of keeping manufacturing running,” said a G.M. official familiar with the discussion. “There’s a lot of interest in how we are working with the U.A.W. to keep the work force safe and keep the plants running.”
Rory Gamble, the president of the autoworkers’ union, said in an interview that he had urged Mr. Biden to make sure OSHA issued “strong enforceable standards” to keep workers safe during the pandemic. Under the Trump administration, OSHA has declined to put out specific coronavirus-related regulations, opting instead for recommendations, and has largely avoided inspecting facilities outside of a few high-risk industries like health care and emergency response.