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The $15 Minimum Wage Won in Florida, But Biden Didn’t. Here’s Why.

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On NovemĀ­berĀ 3, Floridaā€™s politĀ­iĀ­calĀ­ly diverse elecĀ­torateĀ showed resoundĀ­ingĀ supportĀ for AmendĀ­mentĀ 2, an iniĀ­tiaĀ­tive to gradĀ­uĀ­alĀ­ly raise the state minĀ­iĀ­mum wage from $8.56Ā an hour to $15Ā byĀ 2026. This makes FloriĀ­da the eighth state nationĀ­wide, and the first state in the South, to get on track towards a $15Ā minĀ­iĀ­mumĀ wage.

This vicĀ­toĀ­ry conĀ­trasts sharply with the loss of Biden in the state, as well as sigĀ­nifĀ­iĀ­cant lossĀ­es for the state DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic ParĀ­ty. The activists behind AmendĀ­ment 2 say their camĀ­paign offers lessons for how proĀ­gresĀ­sive ideas can win the day by priĀ­orĀ­iĀ­tizĀ­ing improvĀ­ing the mateĀ­rĀ­iĀ­al conĀ­diĀ­tions of workĀ­ers, and speak directĀ­ly to the hardĀ­ship that peoĀ­ple face.

ā€œFar too many workĀ­ing peoĀ­ple in FloriĀ­da do critĀ­iĀ­cal work to keep our comĀ­muĀ­niĀ­ties going but are underĀ­paid and underĀ­valĀ­ued, often bareĀ­ly makĀ­ing enough to get by,ā€ said Esther SeguĀ­ra, a JackĀ­son Health SysĀ­tem nurse and union memĀ­ber with the FloriĀ­da for $15 coaliĀ­tion, a netĀ­work of labor, racial, ecoĀ­nomĀ­ic jusĀ­tice and grassĀ­roots orgaĀ­niĀ­zaĀ­tions statewide. ?ā€œWe call them essenĀ­tial workĀ­ers, and now itā€™s clear the majorĀ­iĀ­ty of FloriĀ­da votĀ­ers agree that itā€™s time to pay them the wages they deserve!ā€ 

A vicĀ­toĀ­ry for workers

AmendĀ­ment 2, known as the Fair Wage IniĀ­tiaĀ­tive, faced a difĀ­fiĀ­cult terĀ­rain, includĀ­ing oppoĀ­siĀ­tion from the FloriĀ­da ChamĀ­ber of ComĀ­merce, the NationĀ­al RestauĀ­rant AssoĀ­ciĀ­aĀ­tion, and the anti-AmendĀ­ment 2 PAC Save FloriĀ­da Jobsā€”which warned votĀ­ers of disĀ­asĀ­trous effects on Floridaā€™s small busiĀ­ness ownĀ­ers and ecoĀ­nomĀ­ic recovĀ­ery. Yet, the iniĀ­tiaĀ­tive secured 60.8% approval among FloriĀ­da votĀ­ers, just bareĀ­ly meetĀ­ing the 60% threshĀ­old needĀ­ed to pass.

Under AmendĀ­ment 2, the wage floor will increase to $10 next SepĀ­temĀ­ber and rise in $1 increĀ­ments each year until reachĀ­ing $15 on SepĀ­temĀ­ber 30, 2026. For tipped employĀ­ees, wages will increase from $5.54 to $11.98 by 2026. OrlanĀ­do attorĀ­ney and milĀ­lionĀ­aire John MorĀ­gan, who bankrolled Floridaā€™s balĀ­lot meaĀ­sure to legalĀ­ize medĀ­ical marĀ­iĀ­juaĀ­na in 2016, poured milĀ­lions of dolĀ­lars into Floridaā€™s AmendĀ­ment 2 camĀ­paign, charĀ­acĀ­terĀ­izĀ­ing it as ?ā€œa vote of moralĀ­iĀ­ty and compassion.ā€

RoughĀ­ly 2.5 milĀ­lion workĀ­ers are expectĀ­ed to see a pay increase next SepĀ­temĀ­ber, includĀ­ing 38% of women of colĀ­or in the workĀ­force, accordĀ­ing to a report from the left-leanĀ­ing FloriĀ­da PolĀ­iĀ­cy InstiĀ­tute. Black and LatĀ­inx women?ā€”?who in the UnitĀ­ed States earn 63 cents and 55 cents on the white, male dolĀ­lar respecĀ­tiveĀ­ly?ā€”?are expectĀ­ed to see the greatĀ­est gains from Floridaā€™s wage bump. 

For those who orgaĀ­nized around Floridaā€™s AmendĀ­ment 2 across the state, the benĀ­eĀ­fits of raisĀ­ing wages werenā€™t a hard sell. IndiĀ­vidĀ­uĀ­als with FloriĀ­da for $15 sent more than 3.1 milĀ­lion texts to votĀ­ers ahead of ElecĀ­tion Day, and supĀ­portĀ­ed a numĀ­ber of workĀ­er strikes and car carĀ­aĀ­vans led by FloriĀ­da fast food and airĀ­port workĀ­ers. The effort also garĀ­nered the involveĀ­ment of forĀ­merĀ­ly incarĀ­cerĀ­atĀ­ed workĀ­ers like Alex HarĀ­ris, a 24-year-old WafĀ­fle House workĀ­er and Fight for $15 leader. ā€œ[Floridaā€™s curĀ­rent minĀ­iĀ­mum wage] is just a way to keep peoĀ­ple incarĀ­cerĀ­atĀ­ed, to keep them strugĀ­gling, and to keep them from being free,ā€ HarĀ­ris said, durĀ­ing an OctoĀ­ber Fight for $15 ralĀ­ly in TamĀ­pa, FloriĀ­da. HarĀ­ris, a returnĀ­ing citĀ­iĀ­zen who regained his right to vote with Floridaā€™s 2018 AmendĀ­ment 4 balĀ­lot meaĀ­sure, vocalĀ­ized the need for votĀ­ers to show up for AmendĀ­ment 2 throughĀ­out the campaign.

DisĀ­apĀ­pointĀ­ing results for Democrats

Yet, the Biden camĀ­paign did not fare as well. In someĀ­thing of an upset, Biden?ā€”?who had quiĀ­etĀ­ly endorsed a $15 fedĀ­erĀ­al minĀ­iĀ­mum wage as part of his ecoĀ­nomĀ­ic platĀ­form?ā€”?lost to Trump in FloriĀ­da by roughĀ­ly 370,000 votes, underĀ­perĀ­formĀ­ing with the stateā€™s diverse LatĀ­inx and HisĀ­panĀ­ic comĀ­muĀ­niĀ­ties in counĀ­ties like MiaĀ­mi-Dade, where RepubĀ­liĀ­cans put a lot of enerĀ­gy into ?ā€œsocialĀ­istā€™ fear-mongering. 

There was a sharp disĀ­crepĀ­anĀ­cy between FloriĀ­da votĀ­ersā€™ overĀ­whelmĀ­ing supĀ­port for a $15 minĀ­iĀ­mum wage and a lack of supĀ­port for Biden, who received more than one milĀ­lion less votes than AmendĀ­ment 2. (Trump also paled in popĀ­uĀ­larĀ­iĀ­ty to Floridaā€™s minĀ­iĀ­mum wage iniĀ­tiaĀ­tive, trailĀ­ing its powĀ­erĀ­house base of supĀ­port by more than 700,000 votes.)

Biden wasnā€™t the only perĀ­son who faced defeat. Floridaā€™s state DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic ParĀ­ty also sufĀ­fered a sigĀ­nifĀ­iĀ­cant blow on ElecĀ­tion Day. DemocĀ­rats lost five seats in the state House, and in MiaĀ­mi, RepubĀ­liĀ­cans have forced at least one state SenĀ­ate race to a recount. 

But despite talk that FloriĀ­da has offiĀ­cialĀ­ly joined the countryā€™s ?ā€œred states,ā€ FloriĀ­da memĀ­bers of the DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic SocialĀ­ists of AmerĀ­iĀ­ca (DSA) who were activeĀ­ly involved in the FloriĀ­da for $15 coaliĀ­tion are less cynĀ­iĀ­cal about the potenĀ­tial of Floridaā€™s mulĀ­tiraĀ­cial workĀ­ing class majorĀ­iĀ­ty. The memĀ­bers of DSA, the largest socialĀ­ist orgaĀ­niĀ­zaĀ­tion in the counĀ­try, have their own ideas for why Biden?ā€”?and state DemocĀ­rats more broadĀ­ly?ā€”?failed to garĀ­ner the same sucĀ­cess as Floridaā€™s minĀ­iĀ­mum wage amendment.

Kofi Hunt, a co-chair of the PinelĀ­las CounĀ­ty chapĀ­ter of DSA, says the FloriĀ­da for $15 camĀ­paign was unapoloĀ­getĀ­iĀ­calĀ­ly pro-workĀ­er in its mesĀ­sagĀ­ing and spoke directĀ­ly to the strugĀ­gles of Floridaā€™s workĀ­ing class. Hunt argues that the stateā€™s mulĀ­tiraĀ­cial workĀ­ing-class base more broadĀ­ly didnā€™t get a staunch pro-workĀ­er mesĀ­sage from either Trump or Biden, but conĀ­cedes that the latĀ­ter offered more of a workĀ­er-friendĀ­ly platĀ­form. But Hunt and othĀ­ers involved in the FloriĀ­da for $15 coaliĀ­tion argue Bidenā€™s most pro-workĀ­er poliĀ­cies?ā€”?such as uniĀ­verĀ­sal pre-KinderĀ­garten and a fedĀ­erĀ­al minĀ­iĀ­mum wage boost?ā€”?didnā€™t get the kind of limeĀ­light that could have benĀ­eĀ­fitĀ­ted him more on the camĀ­paign trail in Florida. 

ā€œThe presĀ­iĀ­denĀ­tial elecĀ­tion was largeĀ­ly about defeatĀ­ing Trump and not what Joe Biden would do for workĀ­ing peoĀ­ple,ā€ says Richie Floyd, a PinelĀ­las DSA orgaĀ­nizĀ­er and labor activist who conĀ­tributed to FloriĀ­da for $15 efforts. ?ā€œDurĀ­ing trips to FloriĀ­da, Biden played ?ā€˜DespaciĀ­toā€™ on his phone and panĀ­dered to right-wing votĀ­ers in MiaĀ­mi. This stratĀ­eĀ­gy comĀ­pleteĀ­ly failed as we can see from the results out of Miami-Dade.ā€

TalkĀ­ing to the workĀ­ing class

The FloriĀ­da for $15 camĀ­paign, on the othĀ­er hand, emphaĀ­sized the strugĀ­gles of Floridaā€™s workĀ­ing famĀ­iĀ­lies?ā€”?such as unafĀ­fordĀ­able healthĀ­care, childĀ­care and housĀ­ing?ā€”?and underĀ­scored how achievĀ­ing highĀ­er wages could directĀ­ly address those conĀ­cerns. ?ā€œIt was about telling workĀ­ing peoĀ­ple across the state that there is a real choice on the balĀ­lot that can improve peoĀ­pleā€™s lives immeĀ­diĀ­ateĀ­ly. It was about focusĀ­ing on what we can offer and how we can make lives betĀ­ter,ā€ says Floyd. 

MeanĀ­while, as RepubĀ­liĀ­can-friendĀ­ly corĀ­poĀ­raĀ­tions like PubĀ­lix?ā€”?a southĀ­ern groĀ­cery chain based in FloriĀ­da?ā€”?reportĀ­ed more than $11.1 billion in sales revĀ­enue this quarĀ­ter, everyĀ­day FloridĀ­iĀ­ans have been left to grapĀ­ple with the stateā€™s broĀ­ken unemĀ­ployĀ­ment sysĀ­tem and the deadĀ­ly misĀ­manĀ­ageĀ­ment of the coroĀ­nĀ­avirus panĀ­demĀ­ic by RepubĀ­liĀ­can GovĀ­erĀ­nor Ron DeSantis. 

While Hunt says DemocĀ­rats genĀ­erĀ­alĀ­ly do a betĀ­ter job speakĀ­ing to the needs of marĀ­ginĀ­alĀ­ized popĀ­uĀ­laĀ­tions, the ?ā€œtug of warā€ between the corĀ­poĀ­rate and proĀ­gresĀ­sive wings of the parĀ­ty makes it difĀ­fiĀ­cult to comĀ­muĀ­niĀ­cate a conĀ­vincĀ­ing, uniĀ­fyĀ­ing mesĀ­sage for Floridaā€™s workĀ­ing-class base?ā€”?parĀ­ticĀ­uĀ­larĀ­ly the stateā€™s poor Black and Brown communities.

Instead of workĀ­ing to meet these comĀ­muĀ­niĀ­ties where theyā€™re at, Hunt says many FloriĀ­da DemocĀ­rats scramĀ­bled to panĀ­der to subĀ­urĀ­banĀ­ites and adopt conĀ­serĀ­vĀ­aĀ­tive posiĀ­tions more broadĀ­ly, to make themĀ­selves more appealĀ­ing to RepubĀ­liĀ­cans who already show up to the balĀ­lot box.

Floyd agrees with Huntā€™s assessĀ­ment. ?ā€œIf the FloriĀ­da and NationĀ­al DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic parĀ­ties want to be sucĀ­cessĀ­ful here, then they need to realĀ­ize that focusĀ­ing on the ecoĀ­nomĀ­ic plight of the mulĀ­ti-racial workĀ­ing class is the only way forĀ­ward,ā€ he says. ?ā€œTo win, we have to focus on the needs of the workĀ­ing class, and not the donor class.ā€

CarĀ­men Laguer Diaz, a leader of the SEIU FloriĀ­da PubĀ­lic SecĀ­tor Union and an adjunct facĀ­ulĀ­ty proĀ­fesĀ­sor at ValenĀ­cia ColĀ­lege in OrlanĀ­do, also believes thereā€™s a need to idenĀ­tiĀ­fy comĀ­monĀ­alĀ­iĀ­ties between workĀ­ing indiĀ­vidĀ­uĀ­als?ā€”?like the appeal of highĀ­er wages?ā€”?and cross-culĀ­turĀ­al mesĀ­sagĀ­ing. ?ā€œItā€™s not about parĀ­ty. Itā€™s about workĀ­ers. Itā€™s about all of us,ā€ she said.

FloriĀ­da for $15 coaliĀ­tion partĀ­ners arenā€™t alone in their critĀ­iĀ­cisms. State Rep. Anna EskaĀ­mani (D?Orlando)?ā€”?a proĀ­gresĀ­sive who easĀ­iĀ­ly secured a secĀ­ond term in the FloriĀ­da House on NovemĀ­ber 3?ā€”?is one of sevĀ­erĀ­al FloriĀ­da DemocĀ­rats who has been openĀ­ly critĀ­iĀ­cal of the state parĀ­ty since ElecĀ­tion Day, parĀ­ticĀ­uĀ­larĀ­ly of the failĀ­ure of corĀ­poĀ­rate DemocĀ­rats to delivĀ­er anyĀ­thing more appealĀ­ing than vague promisĀ­es for ?ā€œchange.ā€

ā€œEveryĀ­thing is conĀ­nectĀ­ed, and I think that the DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic ParĀ­ty did a very, very poor job of demonĀ­stratĀ­ing those conĀ­necĀ­tions and anchorĀ­ing the [AmendĀ­ment 2] issue with our canĀ­diĀ­date [Joe Biden],ā€ says EskaĀ­mani. ?ā€œAnd of course, itā€™s often due to corĀ­poĀ­rate influĀ­ence. You know, many of the corĀ­poĀ­raĀ­tions that were against AmendĀ­ment 2 write checks to DemocĀ­rats. And thatā€™s a probĀ­lem, because then you end up havĀ­ing top DemocĀ­rats, who had been brandĀ­ed as leadĀ­ing the parĀ­ty, expressĀ­ing lukeĀ­warm senĀ­tiĀ­ments about AmendĀ­ment 2, when we all should be ralĀ­lyĀ­ing around it and liftĀ­ing up the voicĀ­es of our directĀ­ly impactĀ­ed people.ā€

DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic State Sen. Annette TadĀ­deo, who repĀ­reĀ­sents parts of MiaĀ­mi-Dade CounĀ­ty, also expressed being unimĀ­pressed with Bidenā€™s ground-game down south. ?ā€œYou need a conĀ­stant presĀ­ence, and you canĀ­not take minorĀ­iĀ­ty comĀ­muĀ­niĀ­ties for grantĀ­ed,ā€ she told AP News in a NovemĀ­ber 4 artiĀ­cle. ?ā€œYou canā€™t come in two months before an elecĀ­tion and expect to excite these communities.ā€

FloriĀ­da DemocĀ­rats who refuse to embrace proĀ­gresĀ­sive meaĀ­sures like Medicare for All (which has majorĀ­iĀ­ty supĀ­port nationĀ­wide) and the Green New Deal proĀ­posĀ­al claim that itā€™s a politĀ­iĀ­cal liaĀ­bilĀ­iĀ­ty to camĀ­paign on these poliĀ­cies in swing states. ForĀ­mer guberĀ­naĀ­toĀ­rĀ­iĀ­al canĀ­diĀ­date Andrew Gillum, for instance, faced anti-socialĀ­ist red baitĀ­ing when he camĀ­paigned on Medicare for All in FloriĀ­da in 2018. So did Biden this elecĀ­tion cycle, for that matĀ­ter, despite denouncĀ­ing socialĀ­ism at every turn.

But activists says retĀ­iĀ­cence to embrace left ideas is misĀ­guidĀ­ed, even in areas like MiaĀ­mi-Dade where demoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic socialĀ­ists are well-aware of the uphill batĀ­tle they face in addressĀ­ing the bagĀ­gage of the ?ā€˜socialĀ­istā€™ label. CanĀ­diĀ­dates across the counĀ­try who backed proĀ­gresĀ­sive posiĀ­tions like the Green New Deal perĀ­formed exceedĀ­ingĀ­ly well. SocialĀ­ist canĀ­diĀ­dates and meaĀ­sures also faced conĀ­sidĀ­erĀ­able sucĀ­cess on ElecĀ­tion Day: As Mindy IssĀ­er reportĀ­ed for In These Times, DSA ?ā€œendorsed 29 canĀ­diĀ­dates and 11 balĀ­lot iniĀ­tiaĀ­tives, winĀ­ning 20 and 8 respecĀ­tiveĀ­ly,ā€ includĀ­ing Floridaā€™s $15 minĀ­iĀ­mum wage initiative. 

ā€œBidenā€™s camĀ­paign, and most DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic statewide camĀ­paigns before him in the past 20 years, have nevĀ­er laid out a coherĀ­ent platĀ­form to workĀ­ing class votĀ­ers here [in FloriĀ­da],ā€ says OrlanĀ­do DSA orgaĀ­nizĀ­er and FloriĀ­da for $15 coaliĀ­tion partĀ­ner Grayson LanĀ­za. ?ā€œBeing the parĀ­ty of ?ā€˜also not socialĀ­istā€™ and nothĀ­ing else is clearĀ­ly not working.ā€

While some argue that a $15 minĀ­iĀ­mum wage isnā€™t going far enough?ā€”?espeĀ­cialĀ­ly by the time we reach 2026?ā€”?this initiativeā€™s pasĀ­sage sigĀ­niĀ­fies more than just a wage increase. It demonĀ­strates the popĀ­uĀ­larĀ­iĀ­ty of poliĀ­cies that stand to benĀ­eĀ­fit the workĀ­ing-class majorĀ­iĀ­ty across the ideĀ­oĀ­logĀ­iĀ­cal specĀ­trum, and shows FloriĀ­da workĀ­ers are motiĀ­vatĀ­ed to orgaĀ­nize around issues that are perĀ­tiĀ­nent to their mateĀ­rĀ­iĀ­al conĀ­diĀ­tions. As Floyd puts it, ?ā€œThis could bode well for future labor vicĀ­toĀ­ries, as I am hopeĀ­ful that politiĀ­cians will see that workĀ­ers rights is a winĀ­ning issue, and take action accordingly.ā€

This blog originally appeared atĀ In These TimesĀ on November 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mckenna Schueler is aĀ freeĀ­lance writer based in TamĀ­pa, FloriĀ­da. She is an avid readĀ­er and conĀ­sumer of podĀ­casts who writes about local news, polĀ­iĀ­tics, and menĀ­tal health. She has had work pubĀ­lished in CreĀ­ative LoafĀ­ing TamĀ­pa Bay, OrlanĀ­do WeekĀ­ly, the Health at Every SizeĀ® blog, and McSweeneyā€™s InterĀ­net TenĀ­denĀ­cy. You can find her on TwitĀ­ter @SheCarriesOn.


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“We Wonā€™t Let Him”: Unions Nationwide Are Planning a General Strike If Trump Tries to Steal the Election

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Amid wideĀ­spread conĀ­cerns that PresĀ­iĀ­dent DonĀ­ald Trump will attempt to steal todayā€™s elecĀ­tion or refuse to leave office if he losĀ­es, the leadĀ­ers of mulĀ­tiĀ­ple ChicaĀ­go-area unions issued a joint stateĀ­ment on MonĀ­day comĀ­mitĀ­ting to take any nonĀ­viĀ­oĀ­lent action necĀ­esĀ­sary?ā€”?up to and includĀ­ing a genĀ­erĀ­al strike?ā€”?to defend democracy.

ā€œEvery sinĀ­gle vote has to be countĀ­ed,ā€ says StaĀ­cy Davis Gates, vice presĀ­iĀ­dent of the ChicaĀ­go TeachĀ­ers Union (CTU). ?ā€œWe are preĀ­pared to be in solĀ­iĀ­darĀ­iĀ­ty to ensure that our democĀ­raĀ­cy is proĀ­tectĀ­ed in this moment.ā€

The CTU, UnitĀ­ed ElecĀ­triĀ­cal WorkĀ­ers (UE), SEIU Local 73, SEIU HealthĀ­care, Cook CounĀ­ty ColĀ­lege TeachĀ­ers Union, AmerĀ­iĀ­can FedĀ­erĀ­aĀ­tion of GovĀ­ernĀ­ment EmployĀ­ees Local 704 and WareĀ­house WorkĀ­ers OrgaĀ­nizĀ­ing ComĀ­mitĀ­tee are callĀ­ing on ?ā€œall unions, comĀ­muĀ­niĀ­ty, faith and civic orgaĀ­niĀ­zaĀ­tions, and pubĀ­lic leadĀ­ers to unite in vigĀ­iĀ­lance and readiĀ­ness to defend our rights as the votes in the NovemĀ­ber 3rd elecĀ­tion are cast and counted.ā€

The ChicaĀ­go unions are part of Labor Action to Defend Democracy (LADD)?ā€”?a recentĀ­ly formed nationĀ­al netĀ­work of union memĀ­bers orgaĀ­nizĀ­ing the labor movementā€™s response to the threat of a stolen election.

Alex Han, a ChicaĀ­go-based labor orgaĀ­nizĀ­er helpĀ­ing coorĀ­diĀ­nate LADD, says the netĀ­work seeks to tap into the unique powĀ­er of unions and workĀ­ers to not only protest in the streets, but to cause seriĀ­ous ecoĀ­nomĀ­ic disĀ­rupĀ­tion, if necessary. 

ā€œOne lesĀ­son we learned from the sumĀ­mer is you can susĀ­tain street heat to some degree, but itā€™s going to disĀ­solve. We saw this durĀ­ing OccuĀ­py, weā€™ve seen this many times,ā€ Han tells In These Times. ?ā€œThereā€™s a perĀ­specĀ­tive that would say the missĀ­ing ingreĀ­diĀ­ent is a direct linkĀ­age with workĀ­place action, which is the kind of action that could be more susĀ­tainĀ­ing and sharpĀ­er, and not let street action devolve into a runĀ­ning batĀ­tle with police.ā€

LADD has put togethĀ­er varĀ­iĀ­ous resourcesā€”includĀ­ing samĀ­ple resĀ­oĀ­luĀ­tions and a modĀ­el letĀ­ter to politiĀ­cians?ā€”?that unions can use to ampliĀ­fy calls to proĀ­tect the elecĀ­toral process. In the past three weeks, over twenĀ­ty cenĀ­tral labor counĀ­cils, state labor fedĀ­erĀ­aĀ­tions, nationĀ­al and local unions have issued resĀ­oĀ­luĀ­tions expressĀ­ing firm oppoĀ­siĀ­tion to any efforts to subĀ­vert, disĀ­tort or disĀ­reĀ­gard the final results of the presĀ­iĀ­denĀ­tial election.

The Rochester Labor CounĀ­cil is specifĀ­iĀ­calĀ­ly callĀ­ing on the nationĀ­al AFL-CIO to preĀ­pare for a genĀ­erĀ­al strike, while the VerĀ­mont AFL-CIO plans to hold a genĀ­erĀ­al strike vote on NovemĀ­ber 21 should Trump lose and refuse to conĀ­cede. The SeatĀ­tle EduĀ­caĀ­tion AssoĀ­ciĀ­aĀ­tion will also conĀ­vene an emerĀ­gency meetĀ­ing of its board of direcĀ­tors withĀ­in a week of the elecĀ­tion to conĀ­sidĀ­er next steps for posĀ­siĀ­ble action.

MeanĀ­while, the EmerĀ­gency WorkĀ­place OrgaĀ­nizĀ­ing ComĀ­mitĀ­tee (EWOC)ā€”a joint project of the DemoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic SocialĀ­ists of AmerĀ­iĀ­ca and UE formed earĀ­liĀ­er this year in response to the panĀ­demĀ­ic?ā€”?hostĀ­ed a livestream disĀ­cusĀ­sion last week on how workĀ­ers can take mass action to ensure a peaceĀ­ful tranĀ­siĀ­tion of powĀ­er. FeaĀ­turĀ­ing AssoĀ­ciĀ­aĀ­tion of Flight AttenĀ­dants PresĀ­iĀ­dent Sara NelĀ­son and EWOC orgaĀ­nizĀ­ers Dawn Tefft and Zack PatĀ­tin, the livestream has nearĀ­ly 6,000 views.

ā€œThe labor moveĀ­ment knows how imporĀ­tant it is to defend democĀ­raĀ­cy in this counĀ­try. We are demoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­ic instiĀ­tuĀ­tions,ā€ UE PresĀ­iĀ­dent Carl Rosen explains. ?ā€œWeā€™re preĀ­pared to do whatĀ­evĀ­er it takes to make sure democĀ­raĀ­cy is susĀ­tained. We know what itā€™s takĀ­en in othĀ­er counĀ­tries that have faced tinĀ­pot dicĀ­taĀ­tors tryĀ­ing to stay in office after the peoĀ­ple of their counĀ­try have votĀ­ed them out.ā€

As Rosen indiĀ­cates, unions around the world are often the first line of defense against would-be dicĀ­taĀ­torĀ­ships. For examĀ­ple, in the year since Boliviaā€™s demoĀ­cĀ­raĀ­tĀ­iĀ­calĀ­ly electĀ­ed presĀ­iĀ­dent Evo Morales was oustĀ­ed in a U.S.-backed milĀ­iĀ­tary coup, the CenĀ­tral ObrĀ­era BoliĀ­viana?ā€”?the nationā€™s largest labor fedĀ­erĀ­aĀ­tionā€”led the fight to restore democĀ­raĀ­cy, culĀ­miĀ­natĀ­ing in the recent elecĀ­toral vicĀ­toĀ­ry of Moralesā€™s parĀ­ty, the MovimienĀ­to al Socialismo.

ā€œThe labor moveĀ­ment has a proud hisĀ­toĀ­ry of standĀ­ing up for democĀ­raĀ­cy and fair elecĀ­tions around the world,ā€ says SEIU Local 73 PresĀ­iĀ­dent Dian Palmer. ?ā€œCitĀ­iĀ­zens across the counĀ­try are votĀ­ing like nevĀ­er before. We are utiĀ­lizĀ­ing the rights affordĀ­ed to us to vote earĀ­ly, in perĀ­son, and by mail. And those votes should be counted.ā€

ā€œWe believe in the powĀ­er of the peoĀ­ple?ā€”?the mulĀ­ti-racial, workĀ­ing-class majorĀ­iĀ­ty,ā€ the ChicaĀ­go unionsā€™ stateĀ­ment reads. ?ā€œDonĀ­ald Trump wants to steal this elecĀ­tion. We wonā€™t let him.ā€

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on November 3, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jeff Schuhrke has been a WorkĀ­ing In These Times conĀ­tribĀ­uĀ­tor since 2013. He has a Ph.D. in HisĀ­toĀ­ry from the UniĀ­verĀ­siĀ­ty of IlliĀ­nois at ChicaĀ­go and a Masterā€™s in Labor StudĀ­ies from UMass Amherst. FolĀ­low him on TwitĀ­ter: @JeffSchuhrke.


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Bernie Sanders makes a play for Biden Labor secretary

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Sen. Bernie Sanders is hoping to be a part of Joe Bidenā€™s potential administration and has expressed a particular interest in becoming Labor secretary, two people familiar with the conversations tell POLITICO.

ā€œI can confirm he’s trying to figure out how to land that role or something like it,ā€ said one person close to the Vermont senator. ā€œHe, personally, does have an interest in it.”

Sanders on Wednesday declined to confirm or deny that heā€™s putting his name forward for the position.

ā€œRight now I am focused on seeing that Biden is elected president,ā€ he told POLITICO. ā€œThatā€™s what my main focus is.ā€

Former Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said Sanders has not talked directly with anyone on the Biden campaign about a future role, but plans to push Biden, his former Senate colleague, to “include progressive voices” in both the transition and in a potential new administration.

Yet two other people close to Sanders, including one former aide, said the senator has expressed interest in being in the administration, should Biden win in November. Sanders has been making his push for the top job at the Labor Department in part by reaching out to allies on the transition team, one person familiar with the process said.

When asked about Sandersā€™ potential role, a spokesperson for Bidenā€™s transition team repeated the transition’s stock line: that they are ā€œnot making any personnel decisions pre-election.ā€

Since ending his second bid for the Democratic nomination earlier this year, Sanders has thrown his support behind Biden, hitting the campaign trail for him in Michigan and New Hampshire, collaborating with him to create ā€œunity task forcesā€ to make recommendations on everything from health care to climate change, and taking the stage at the Democratic National Convention to urge progressives to back the former vice president.

ā€œHeā€™s 100 percent in Joe Bidenā€™s court,ā€ said Shakir. ā€œWeā€™ve had a good working relationship with the Biden team and I expect weā€™ll maintain that all the way through.ā€

Through this collaboration, Shakir said, Sanders has been able to influence both policy and personnel discussions underway among Biden transition’s staff.

ā€œIt would be great to have a unity government that takes into account that progressives are a pretty healthy portion of the electorate,ā€ he said. ā€œHeeding that would be good, but if Joe Biden wins, he rightly has a mandate to move in whatever direction he chooses.ā€

The news of Sandersā€™ interest in the job is certain to cheer the Democratic left, which has been pushing for progressives to take senior roles in a potential Biden administration.

ā€œHeā€™d be terrific,ā€ said Robert Reich, a former Labor secretary in the Clinton administration.

Having Sanders in a senior post could also help balance out any consternation over more moderate picks ā€” or even a Republican ā€” that Bidenā€™s team is already considering for other spots in the administration.

Sanders could find support from the labor movement as well, where union officials expect to have some influence over Bidenā€™s pick to lead the DOL.

The Vermont senator ā€” who throughout his decadeslong career has called for laws to raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to organize ā€” won significant support from local unions and rank-and-file members in the 2016 Democratic primary race, even as most major national unions endorsed his rival Hillary Clinton.

In 2020, many major unions endorsed Sandersā€™ signature “Medicare for All” proposal ā€” which would replace private insurance with a national single-payer system ā€” saying the policy would help workers focus their bargaining power on wages and working conditions, rather than health benefits. When some unions came out against the policy, saying they didnā€™t trust the new government insurance program to offer as robust benefits as the private plans they secured through negotiations, Sanders added a provision empowering the National Labor Relations Board to make sure employers reinvested what they would save on health insurance in workersā€™ pay and other benefits.

ā€œObviously, heā€™s earned a lot of trust from working people across the country over the past many years,ā€ one union official said.

The official added that joining a Biden administration could help the 79-year-old Sanders craft a legacy ā€” ā€œbeing able to help rebuild the economy in a way that works for working Americans after this pandemic.ā€

One person close to Sanders agreed that Sanders sees an opportunity to achieve long-held policy goals for the working class under Biden, adding: ā€œHe really does believe Biden wants to be a Roosevelt-like president.ā€

The Democratic presidential nominee has made labor a priority issue throughout his presidential campaign, emphasizing the need to strengthen and expand the right to join a union and rebuild Americaā€™s middle class. Itā€™s an area where heā€™s fairly progressive and generally aligned with Sanders, who pledged as a presidential candidate to double union membership if elected.

Still, it could be an uphill battle for Sanders to secure the nomination at Labor or any other agency, in part because Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, would be able to appoint a temporary successor to his Senate seat.

Unlike governors in other states, who get to appoint successors to carry out the rest of the term, Scott would be required under Vermont law to hold a special election within six months of the seat becoming vacant. But even allowing Scott the opportunity to fill Sandersā€™ seat with a GOP lawmaker in the short term could potentially affect control of the Senate, depending on the results of Novemberā€™s election.

Others see Sandersā€™ stubborn independence as a potential liability.

ā€œBecause of how he operates and works with other people, thereā€™s a zero chanceā€ of him getting tapped for the job, one person close to Sanders said. ā€œHeā€™s a Lone Ranger, to a fault.ā€

Other names that have been floated for Labor secretary in a Biden administration include Bill Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO and a Howard University economics professor; Sharon Block, a veteran of the DOL and Obama White House who is now executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard University; Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), a former union organizer and leader of Michiganā€™s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth; and Seth Harris, the former deputy secretary of Labor in the Obama administration.

There has also been some discussion of Biden looking to appoint a union official to his Cabinet, possibly atop the DOL or the Department of Education.

This article originally appeared at Politico on October 22, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Megan Cassella is a trade reporter for POLITICO Pro. Before joining the trade team in June 2016, Megan worked for Reuters based out of Washington, covering the economy, domestic politics and the 2016 presidential campaign. It was in that role that she first began covering trade, including Donald Trumpā€™s rise as the populist candidate vowing to renegotiate NAFTA and Hillary Clintonā€™s careful sidestep of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A D.C.-area native, Megan headed south for a few years to earn her bachelorā€™s degree in business journalism and international politics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now settled back inside the Beltway, Meganā€™s on the hunt for the cityā€™s best Carolina BBQ ā€” and still rooting for the Heels.


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ā€˜A tale of 2 recessionsā€™: As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles

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The path toward economic recovery in the U.S. has become sharply divided, with wealthier Americans earning and saving at record levels while the poorest struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table.

The result is a splintered economic picture characterized by high highs ā€” the stock market has hit record levels ā€” and incongruous low lows: Nearly 30 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, and the jobless rate stands at 8.4 percent. And that dichotomy, economists fear, could obscure the need for an additional economic stimulus that most say is sorely needed.

The trend is on track to exacerbate dramatic wealth and income gaps in the U.S., where divides are already wider than any other nation in the G-7, a group of major developed countries. Spiraling inequality can also contribute to political and financial instability, fuel social unrest and extend any economic recession.

The growing divide could also have damaging implications for President Donald Trump’s reelection bid. Economic downturns historically have been harmful if not fatal for incumbent presidents, and Trump’s base of working-class, blue-collar voters in the Midwest are among the demographics hurting the most. The White House has worked to highlight a rapid economic recovery as a primary reason to reelect the president, but his support on the issue is slipping: Nearly 3 in 5 people say the economy is on the wrong track, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Democrats are now seizing on what they see as an opportunity to hit the president on what had been one of his strongest reelection arguments.

“The economic inequities that began before the downturn have only worsened under this failed presidency,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday. “No one thought they’d lose their job for good or see small businesses shut down en masse. But that kind of recovery requires leadership ā€” leadership we didn’t have, and still don’t have.”

Recent economic data and surveys have laid bare the growing divide. Americans saved a stunning $3.2 trillion in July, the same month that more than 1 in 7 households with children told the U.S. Census Bureau they sometimes or often didnā€™t have enough food. More than a quarter of adults surveyed have reported paying down debt faster than usual, according to aĀ new AP-NORC poll, while the same proportion said they have been unable to make rent or mortgage payments or pay a bill.

A historic House vote on marijuana legalization will take place later this month. We break down why Democrats are voting on the bill despite the fact that it’ll be dead upon arrival in the Senate.

And while the employment rate for high-wage workers has almost entirely recovered ā€” by mid-July it was down just 1 percent from January ā€” it remains down 15.4 percent for low-wage workers, according to Harvardā€™s Opportunity Insights economic tracker.

ā€œWhat thatā€™s created is this tale of two recessions,ā€ said Beth Akers, a labor economist with the Manhattan Institute who worked on the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. ā€œThere are so obviously complete communities that have been almost entirely unscathed by Covid, while others are entirely devastated.ā€

Trump and his allies have seized on the strength of the stock market and positive growth in areas like manufacturing and retail sales as evidence of what they have been calling a “V-shaped recovery”: a sharp drop-off followed by rapid growth.

But economists say that argument fails to see the larger picture, one where roughly a million laid-off workers areĀ filing for unemployment benefitsĀ each week, millions more have seen theirĀ pay and hours cut, andĀ permanent job losses are rising. The economyĀ gained 1.4 million jobsĀ in August, the Labor Department reported Friday, but the pace of job growth has slowed at a time when less than half of the jobs lost earlier this year have been recovered.

Some economists have begun to refer to the recovery as “K-shaped,” because while some households and communities have mostly recovered, others are continuing to struggle ā€” or even seeing their situation deteriorate further.

ā€œIf you just look at the top of the K, itā€™s a V ā€” but you canā€™t just look at whatā€™s above water,ā€ said Claudia Sahm, director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. ā€œThere could be a whole iceberg underneath it that youā€™re going to plow into.ā€

The burden is falling heavily on the poorest Americans, who are more likely to be out of work and less likely to have savings to lean on to weather the crisis. While recessions are always hardest on the poor, the coronavirus downturn has amplified those effects because shutdowns and widespread closures have wiped out low-wage jobs in industries like leisure and hospitality.

Highly touted gains in the stock market, meanwhile, help only the wealthiest 10 percent or so of households, as most others own little or no stock.

The disconnect between the stock market and the broader economy has been stark. On the same day in late August that MGM Resorts announced it would be laying off a quarter of its workforce, throwing some 18,000 workers into unemployment, its stock price jumped more than 6 percent, reaching its highest closing price since the start of March.

ā€œThe haves and the have-nots, thereā€™s always been a distinction,ā€ Sahm said. But now, she added, ā€œwe are widening this in a way I donā€™t think people have really wrapped their head around.ā€

A store going out of business
A customer leaves a retail store, which is going out of business, during the coronavirus pandemic. | Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

Without further stimulus, the situation appears poised to get worse. Economic growth until now had been led by increasing levels of consumer spending, buoyed by stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits that gave many people, including jobless workers, more money to spend.

Low-income consumers have led the way, and they spent slightly more in August than they did in January, according to the Opportunity Insights tracker ā€” even as middle- and high-income consumers are still spending less.

But those low-income consumers were also the most dependent on the extra $600 per week in boosted unemployment benefits, which expired in July. Since that lapsed ā€” and since Congress appears unlikely to extend it any time soon, if at all ā€” ā€œweā€™re likely to see other macroeconomic numbers really fall off a cliff in the coming weeks,ā€ Akers said.

The expected drop in spending, paired with the expiration of economic relief initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program, could also spell trouble for businesses in the coming months. Many economists expect a wave of bankruptcies and business closures in the fall, contributing to further layoffs.

In that sector, too, owners are feeling disparate impacts. More than 1 in 5 small business owners reported that sales are still 50 percent or less than where they were before the pandemic, according to a recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Business, and the same proportion say they will need to close their doors if current economic conditions do not improve within six months.

At the same time, however, half said they are nearly back to where they were before, and approximately 1 in 7 owners say they are doing better now than they were before the pandemic, the survey showed.

Those diverging narratives could be understating the need for further stimulus by smoothing over some of the deeper weaknesses in the labor market and the economy, experts say.

ā€œThis is a case where the averages tell a different story than the underlying data itself,ā€ said Peter Atwater, an adjunct economics professor at William & Mary.

While Republicans appear to be embracing the idea of further ā€œtargetedā€ aid, they are also touting what Trump has called a ā€œrocket-shipā€ economic recovery and emphasizing record-breaking growth while downplaying the record-breaking losses that preceded it.

ā€œThereā€™s no question the recovery has beat expectations,ā€ said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, this week on a press call with reporters.

Talks between the White House and Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have been stalled for weeks. The Senate is set to return from its summer recess next week with no clear path forward on a relief package.

ā€œPeople are in these bubbles,ā€ Atwater said. ā€œAnd if people arenā€™t leaving their homes, are not really getting out, itā€™s unlikely that theyā€™re seeing the magnitude of the downside of this K-shaped recovery.ā€

ThisĀ articleĀ originally appeared at Politico on September 7, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Megan Cassella is a trade reporter for POLITICO Pro. Before joining the trade team in June 2016, Megan worked for Reuters based out of Washington, covering the economy, domestic politics and the 2016 presidential campaign. It was in that role that she first began covering trade, including Donald Trumpā€™s rise as the populist candidate vowing to renegotiate NAFTA and Hillary Clintonā€™s careful sidestep of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A D.C.-area native, Megan headed south for a few years to earn her bachelorā€™s degree in business journalism and international politics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now settled back inside the Beltway, Meganā€™s on the hunt for the cityā€™s best Carolina BBQ ā€” and still rooting for the Heels.


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Trump Is Waging a War On Labor Unions, But You Wouldnā€™t Know It from CNNā€™s Dem Debate

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Last night, CNN and the New York Times co-hosted a Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohioā€”and even by the standards of the mainstream media, the omissions were glaring. There were no questions about police violence, affordable housing, Israel, or the climate crisis. However, there was a softball question about friendship inspired by the bond between Ellen DeGeneres and George W. Bush.

Key labor battles were notably missing from the discussion. While a few of the candidates mentioned unions, the moderators didnā€™t meaningfully press any of them about the many work stoppages currently taking place throughout the country, except for a question about the General Motors (GM) strike, which mostly focused on the death of the auto industry and how we might be jobs back. The moderators failed to inquire about plans to strengthen worker power, or ask any questions about labor law, giving the impression that unionsā€”and the entire working classā€”are tangential to the 2020 presidential race.

Surprisingly, there actually was one question about theĀ GM Strike, which has left 50,000 workers without a paycheck for over a month, with the membershipĀ poisedĀ to vote on a tentative contract, according to breaking news this morning. But the question was framed in the context of a beleaguered industry that could potentially be saved via economic nationalism. The candidates were simply asked about the declining power of U.S. car companies and whether or not they had a plan to bring back jobs from Mexico. There was no mention of the fact that the current strike is directly connected to the restructuring of the company and the concessions that were forced upon workers by the Obama administration as part of the 2009 bailout, despite the fact that a leading Democratic candidate was Obamaā€™s vice president.

That question was fielded by Senator Cory Booker and former Congressman Beto Oā€™Rourke, who both referenced the importance of unions. Booker even said that heā€™d establish sectoral bargaining rights for workers. That promise might have come as a surprise to the Newark Teachers Union, whose president onceĀ declaredĀ that the goal of Bookerā€™s state education plan was to ā€œdefang public teachers unions.ā€

No other current strike or worker battle was asked about or referenced in any of the CNN questions. Nothing about theĀ 20,000 Chicago teachersĀ who just voted to authorize a strike, and nothing about the 2,000Ā striking minersĀ in Arizona or the sanitation workers in Massachusetts who have been on the picket line for a month. There was nothing about the manyĀ newsroomsĀ that continue to organize, social workersĀ fightingĀ for a new contract in California, Harvard student workersĀ casting ballots in a strike authorization vote, or the American Federation of MusiciansĀ agitatingĀ to receive residuals from streaming programs.

There was also nothing asked about the Trump administrationā€™s war on labor unions. Nothing about Trumpā€™s NLRB pushing aĀ corporate agendaĀ for the last two years, its rollback of Obama-era employee protections, its newĀ anti-workerĀ Secretary of Labor, itsĀ inadequateĀ new overtime rules, or its dangerous decision to speed up the production lines ofĀ slaughterhouses. There was nothing about the state of unions in the wake of Janus Supreme Court decision, and nothing about how to strengthen them despite current legal restrictions.

There were references to the ā€œmiddle class,ā€ a term that has always possessed a nebulous definition and beenĀ usedĀ to flatten class divisions and erode working-class solidarity. The only reference to the ā€œworking classā€ was made by Senator Bernie Sanders.

After Warren spoke eloquently about breaking up tech companies, she faced a centrist onslaught of onstage opposition. Oā€™Rourke even compared the plan to the policies of Donald Trump. ā€œWe will be unafraid to break up big businesses if we have to do that ā€” but I donā€™t think it is the role of a president or a candidate for the presidency to specifically call out which companies will be broken up,ā€Ā he said. ā€œThatā€™s something that Donald Trump has done in part because he sees enemies in the press and wants to diminish their power. Itā€™s not something that we should do.ā€

Nearly every question posed to the candidates not named Sanders or Warren seemed to be punctuated with an explicit instruction: Tell us why the policies being pushed by a Democratic Socialist and a New Deal Liberal canā€™t work and why they canā€™t beat Trump.

However, while the fix might have been in for centrism, it still failed to win the evening. Warren was attacked as if she were the frontrunner and Joe Biden did nothing to suggest the other candidates had picked the wrong target. Despite his recent heart attack and polls that suggest heā€™s underperforming his 2016 showing, Sanders was strong and concise. WhileĀ some punditsĀ admitted that the debate might have been his, it was announced Tuesday night that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is endorsing the Senator. Shortly after that bombshell, sources revealed that Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) would also endorse. Bernie has now locked up 75% of The Squad.

Mainstream election coverage may largely omit the subject of labor organizing, but its importance can currently be felt in the labor battles being waged throughout the country. Itā€™s a key component of defeating Trumpism, via the ballot box and beyond. The worker protections that have been eroded must be reinstituted. The labor power thatā€™s been diminished must be built back up. The Democratic candidate must be pushed hard on these issues, whoever it ends up being.

This article was originally published at In These Times on October 16, 2019. Reprinted with permission.Ā 

About the Author: Michael Arria covers labor and social movements.


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The First Labor Plans of the 2020 Race Just Dropped. Hereā€™s What to Make of Them.

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Image result for Shaun RichmanIt was a tale of two citiesā€™ mayors (with presidential ambitions) this week. South Bend, Indianaā€™s Pete Buttigieg and New Yorkā€™s Bill de Blasioā€”the two active-duty mayors among the 20 Democratic presidential candidates still on the debate stageā€”released their labor and workersā€™ rights platforms.

Both mayors include fairly robust proposals to overhaul and modernize our nationā€™s main labor law, the National Labor Relations Act.

But that should no longer be considered good enough. Given that Congressional Democratsā€™ official proposal right now,Ā the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, essentially overturns theĀ anti-union Taft-Hartley Act, adds card check under some circumstances and imposes meaningful financial penalties for employers who violate their employeesā€™ rights, woe to the candidate who doesnā€™t propose to outdo it. Only one mayor, de Blasio, breaks new ground with his proposal; the other, Buttigieg, offers a survey course of think tank white papers and moderate reforms.

Iā€™m actually uncharacteristically optimistic that we may get the PRO Actā€”or something close to itā€”if the Democrats win big in 2020. However, we wonā€™t end our countryā€™s crisis of economic inequality and creeping fascism without a legal framework that puts workersā€™ rights and union power into every workplace on day one.

This may be hard for union leaders and activists who have been in the political wilderness for four decades to understand. Most of us have experienced begging for scraps like card check and banning permanent replacement scabs as the best we could expect Democrats to meekly fight for (and then fail to deliver). Now the stakes are higher, the essentiality of unions to working-class political education and voter turnout is obvious, and overturning Taft-Hartley is the consensus position of Democratic leadership across the political spectrum. Which means that putting the labor movementā€™s foremost political demand of the last 70 years in your platform is suddenly Not. Good. Enough.

Fine. This is Fine.

Buttigiegā€™s platform attempts soaring rhetoric with a preamble about ā€œthe verge of a new American eraā€ calling for ā€œa fundamentally new and different approach to fix our broken political and economic system.ā€

Good, fine so far. The solution, Buttigieg says, requires going ā€œabove and beyond existing legislative proposals like the ā€˜Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.ā€™ā€ But instead of doing that, Buttigiegā€™s labor platform goes sideways with extra footnotes.

He wants to plug holes in the law that allow employers to mischaracterize workers as independent contractors and fix the weak ā€œjoint employerā€ standard that allows large corporations like McDonalds to avoid bargaining with hundreds of thousands of their employees. He proposes to correct one of the original sins of the National Labor Relations Act by finally expanding its protections to farm and domestic workers (whose exclusion was a racist concession to Dixiecrats), and to improve upon the Act by imposing multi-million dollar penalties ā€œthat scale with company sizeā€ for violating workersā€™ organizing rights, giving unionsĀ a right to ā€œequal timeā€Ā on during election campaigns and creating a certification process for industry-wide bargaining.

He endorses theĀ Paycheck Fairness ActĀ and a host of otherĀ anti-harassmentĀ andĀ gender discriminationĀ bills that were already on the shelf, waiting for a government that will finally pass them.

He also has a pretty detailed proposal for paid sick and family leave. Actually, itā€™s virtually identical to Bill de Blasioā€™s proposal (which Iā€™ll get to below), except that he must feel some supernatural neoliberal impulse to refer to it as ā€œaccessā€ to those things. Thatā€™s a red flag for me. And if those of us who wave the red flag were to engage in a drinking game that called for doing shots every time a politician proposed ā€œaccessā€ to a vitally important thing that should be a ā€œright,ā€ weā€™ll all be hammered for the duration of the primaries if we donā€™t die of alcohol poisoning first.

But, in general, Pete Buttigiegā€™s ā€œNew Rising Tideā€ labor platform is … fine. Itā€™s clear that he got a lot of really good advice from a lot of the smartest people trying to tackle the problem of the legal restrictions on workersā€™ rights and the economic inequality that results from it. But itā€™s equally clear that he glommed on to the narrowest, most technical tweaks to a broken system and studiously avoided a more radical rethink of our labor relations system.

Buttigiegā€™s presence in the race as a media darling is slightly annoying. Itā€™s as if the D.C. establishment convinced themselves of their own nonsense that the reason so many voters supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries was because heā€™s a white guy, and if only they could find a younger, charismatic white guy (with just a twist of diversity) that they can garner enough votes for the status quo ante.

Itā€™s nice that he reads books (in self-taught Norwegian, no less!) and speaks ā€œin lucid paragraphs.ā€ But most of his actual contributions to the discourseā€“like every candidate whoā€™s in the race to thwart popular demands to expand government servicesā€“wind up questioning the value of living in a society at all. Take his opposition to free college. ā€œAs a progressive,ā€ heĀ explained to an audience of undergraduates in Massachusetts, ā€œI have a hard time getting my head around the idea of a majority who earn less because they didnā€™t go to college subsidizing a minority who earn more because they did.ā€ Thereā€™s nothing remotely progressive about a ā€œhOw d0 Y0u PaY fOR iT?ā€ argument that could just as easily conclude, ā€œWhy have any public education at all?ā€

Bill de Blasioā€™s presence in the race is also annoying. He hasĀ no shortageĀ of critics at home who point to our crises of mass transit, affordable housing and police accountability asĀ  campaigns the mayor should be running to the state capitol to fix. But he also has anĀ impressive track record of delivering winsĀ for New Yorkā€™s working families and, we learned this week, an impressively bold workersā€™ rights agenda for the nation.

The right to have workplace rights

De Blasio begins hisĀ 21st Century Workers Bill of RightsĀ with an issue thatā€™s near and dear to a lot of us here atĀ In These Times: The Right to Due Process at Work. Simply defined, due process at work, or ā€œjust cause,ā€ is the principle that an employee can be fired only for a legitimate, serious, work-performance reason.

In last Augustā€™s special issue, ā€œRebuilding Labor After Janus,ā€Ā Bill Fletcher proposedĀ a labor movement for just cause laws as a way to ā€œend the tyranny of the non-union workplace,ā€ one that ā€œactively disrupts the strategy of corporate America and its right-wing populist allies.ā€

And in a recent piece marking ten years of the magazineā€™sĀ WorkingĀ blog,Ā Jessica StitesĀ noted that Iā€™ve been using this platform to wage a lonely crusadeĀ on this issue forĀ four yearsĀ now.

Fellow ITT contributorĀ Moshe MarvitĀ and I carried that crusade into anĀ op-ed in theĀ New York TimesĀ in December of 2017. We were building support for an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that then-Rep. Keith Ellison was drafting. (If any presidential candidates who are currently serving in Congress want to see a copy of that bill, slide into my DMā€™sā€¦)

Although Ellisonā€™s move to the Minnesota Attorney Generalā€™s office has momentarily orphaned a federal bill for a ā€œright to your job,ā€ the crusade was revived by a New York City Council push for fast food workers that progressive city council member Brad Lander is doggedly shepherding to Mayor de Blasioā€™s desk. (The billā€™s true champion was SEIU local 32BJā€™s recently departed and dearly missed president, Hector Figueroa.)

To be sure, de Blasio happened to propose my hobbyhorse. But the reason Iā€™ve been arguing for Right to Your Job law is that it is a reform on another scale. It would increase the bargaining power and legal rights of every worker in America. It has the potential to put union representation in every workplace and gives unionsĀ new and creative ways to organize.

The rest of de Blasioā€™s platform is similar to Buttigiegā€™s except for one key distinction: A number of proposals highlight concrete improvements that the city of New York has made in the lives of low wage workers during de Blasioā€™s two terms as mayor.

Like Buttigiegā€™s, De Blasioā€™s labor platform includes a right to paid time off, including paid sick days, paid family and medical leave and the right to at least two weeks of paid vacation per year. Buttigieg proposes something similar, but de Blasio actually implemented a paid sick leave law that entitles workers to up to 40 hours a year of sick time, paid through an insurance fund.

De Blasio also proposes a fair scheduling lawā€”modeled on one that fast food and retail workers won in New Yorkā€”and a $15 minimum wage and new protections for gig workers.

Labor wants more!

Unlike many on the left who are in the ā€œBernie or Bustā€ crowd, I donā€™t have a horse in this raceā€”yet. Weā€™re months away from the Iowa caucuses and I wonā€™t even have a vote in New Yorkā€™s April 2020 primary (Iā€™m registered in the Working Families Party).

But Iā€™m enjoying the race to the left on policy, and watching candidates like Buttigieg reveal the emptiness at the heart of business-friendly centrism.

No one can doubt Bernie Sandersā€™ labor bona fides. He has been on the front lines of workersā€™ struggles for half a century, and the way that he has used his 2020 campaign infrastructure to lift up specific organizing campaigns and strikes and to use his bully pulpit to pressure massive corporations like Amazon and Walmart to raise their workersā€™ pay should be a model for all the candidates. But he is a blunt force instrument, and his indifference to policy details is frustrating on issues as complicated as how to restore the legal rights and collective power of workers.

Elizabeth Warrenā€™s whole stock in trade is that ā€œshe has a plan for that.ā€ As a Senator, she bucked the ā€œthink tank industrial complexā€ by developing aĀ team of expertsĀ on her staff who reached out far and wide to progressive thinkers for policy ideas. Her staff have been picking the brains ofĀ In These TimesĀ writers on policies to tip the scales in favor of workers forĀ years. She would enter office with a slew of policies to empower unions and worker centers to carry out the Robin Hood role the economy needs.

Any other candidate who wants to appeal to voters on labor issues has to propose bold solutions to even be noticed, standing next to Bernie and Warren. Pete Buttigieg has fallen short of that mark. Bill de Blasio has introduced a bold new workersā€™ right that no candidate was talking about. Heā€™s earned your $3 donation to keep him on the debate stage, if only to ask the question: Why should your boss be able to fire you for no reason at all?

Update: Later in the day on July 26, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) releasedĀ the third labor planof the race. Like de Blasio’s, it includes just cause protections.

This article was originally published at In These times on July 26, 2019. Reprinted with permission.Ā 

About the Authors:Ā Kate Bronfenbrenner is director of labor education research at Cornell University, Chris Brooks is a staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes and Shaun Richman is a former organizing director at the American Federation of Teachers.

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The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases. Please note that Workplace Fairness does not operate a lawyer referral service and does not provide legal advice, and that Workplace Fairness is not responsible for any advice that you receive from anyone, attorney or non-attorney, you may contact from this site.