By Kenneth Quinnell A Watershed Moment for Working People
On Wednesday, congressional Democrats released the labor portion of their “Better Deal” initiative. In response to the plan, AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka said:
This morning, I had the privilege of standing with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as they rolled out their plans to strengthen the freedom to join together in a union. We were joined by other labor leaders, including the presidents of AFSCME, AFT, CWA, UFCW and NEA, and by other leaders in the House and Senate who have championed workers’ rights.
This is the first time in recent memory that Democratic elected officials as a caucus have made strengthening workers’ freedom to join together and negotiate with their employers a centerpiece of their policy platform. These leaders forcefully made the case that for our economy to work and for communities to prosper, we need a strong and vibrant labor movement, and that it is in the country’s interest to strengthen workers’ freedom to join together and negotiate better wages, benefits, safety and retirement security.
This action follows on the decision by delegates to the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention to vote unanimously last week to press for a Workers’ Bill of Rights, including rewriting the rules to make it more possible for workers to join together and form unions.
As working people face relentless attacks by corporate special interests trying to weaken workers’ bargaining power and rights, it is critically important for the labor movement and its allies to have a positive vision and agenda to rally around, fight for, and hold elected officials accountable to. Today’s announcement of A Better Deal is a great example of this sort of action.
Read Trumka’s remarks from the release event.
In introducing the plan, AFSCME President Lee Saunders said:
Unions are more important than ever to a thriving middle class, to shared prosperity, to an economy that works for everyone, not just a few. I’m proud, I’m pleased to be working with Senate Democrats toward those goals.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said:
This is a ‘which side are you on’ moment. You think about what Leader Pelosi said before. Look at what some people, the GOP leadership in the Congress, are doing this week, they are trying to get tax giveaways to the rich who have already rigged the economy against working people all throughout the economy. And here we stand very proudly with the Democratic leadership, who’s actually saying we care about the individuals.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said:
I am so proud this morning to be up here speaking about the rights of working people—to organize for educators and for the parents of the students that we serve. Unions have always provided that pathway to the middle class, and we’re needed more than ever now that we are deep into an era where the economy is more and more rigged in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. We know as unions succeed, families and communities succeed.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said:
We all worry about the decline of the middle class. And the Number One reason for the decline of the middle class is the assault on unions and on labor that’s occurred over the last 30 years. Labor unions created the middle class. Before the labor unions, there were a few rich people and a lot of poor people, but not that big a middle class. And the whole big beautiful middle class that America prides itself on was done by the sweat of the predecessors of these folks who organized people and fought—it didn’t come easy—for better wages and better benefits and better retirement.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) said:
And I am literally here as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner and the daughter of a teacher and a newspaper worker, and the first woman elected to the Senate from my state. That wouldnt’ve have happened except for unions. So I really view these union members, in my life, as my role models and my example. And I think that’s what we should expect from the federal government and from our president.
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) said:
Employers who threaten or retaliate against workers who want to exercise their right to form a union or join a union should be held accountable.
Rep. Bobby Scott (Va.) said:
I stand with my colleagues from the House and the Senate in support of a better deal for working people that includes restoring the freedom of workers to negotiate for their fair share.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) said:
The productivity gains of the American worker have not gone to the American worker. Instead they’ve gone to the privileged few, to the wealthy and to the well-off, to millionaires and billionaires, to special interest corporations. It should always be the case if you work hard and play by the rules, you can provide a comfortable living for your family. But for far too many Americans, that basic contract has been broken.
Key parts of the plan include:
- A “federal law that provides public workers with the same rights and freedom to engage in collective bargaining as their private-sector counterparts,” designed to prevent the piecemeal erosion of collective bargaining rights that have taken off in Republican-run states since 2011.
- A ban on state “right to work” laws altogether, as “they have been found to reduce union membership by up to 10% and have resulted in lower wages and decreased access to employer-provided health care and pensions.”
- Making it easier to strike with a “ban [on] the permanent replacement of striking workers.”
- Providing remedies to workers (regardless of their immigration status) for violations, and providing strong penalties against CEOs and companies that interfere with workers’ freedom to join together and negotiate.
- Expanded coverage so more workers have the freedom to join together.
Watch the full press conference releasing the plan:
Fri, 11/03/2017 – 10:50