Beyond Labor Day: Dems Look to Recognize and Reward Workers

Raising Wages and Promoting Workers Rights (from the 2020 Democratic Platform)

Democrats will fight to raise wages for working people and improve job quality and security, including by raising the federal minimum wage so it reaches $15 an hour by 2026. Raising the federal minimum wage, so fewer workers are forced to hold down multiple jobs to make ends meet, will significantly decrease risks of infection from COVID-19 and in the future. We know that strong American labor unions help increase wages and job standards for workers across the economy, which is why Democrats will prioritize passing the PRO Act and restoring workers’ rights, including the right to launch secondary boycotts. We will repeal so-called “right to work” laws that undermine worker power and lead to lower wages and less protection for workers across the economy, and ensure those who have been left without wage and hour protections for decades—including domestic workers and farmworkers—have the same rights as other workers. Democrats will support legislation to strengthen whistleblower and anti-retaliation protections for workers who speak for themselves or their coworkers. And we will take action to rein in anti-competitive corporate power by rewriting the rules that have undermined workers’ ability to advocate for themselves, including non-compete clauses, no-poaching agreements, and contracts that force workers into mandatory arbitration to resolve violations of employment laws. 

Democrats will recognize unions with majority sign-up—via “card check” processes—and ban captive audience meetings, which employers use to bully and browbeat workers. We will hold executives personally accountable if they interfere in workers’ efforts to organize, including issuing criminal penalties for intentional obstruction. We will take action to guarantee that when workers come to the table, they are able to bargain with the employers who actually hold the power, including franchisors, and penalize companies that bargain in bad faith with their workers. Democrats will vigorously protect all private-sector workers’ right to strike without fear of coercion, interference, and undue delay. We will also establish the federal government’s role in promoting and facilitating collective bargaining and helping the parties bring their negotiations to a rapid and successful conclusion, committing to a high standard for intervening in strikes, including under the Railway Labor Act. 

The right of workers to come together and form a union is under attack. We must unrig the rules that block workers from having the union they want and update our labor laws to make it more possible. We must change labor law so that it is easier for unions and employers to enter into multi-employer agreements establishing minimum workplace standards related to wages, benefits, and working conditions. 

Democrats believe taxpayer dollars should never flow to employers who steal workers’ wages, violate labor laws, engage in union-busting, or exploit immigrant workers to depress working conditions for all workers. We will increase funding and staffing at the Department of Labor to aggressively enforce wage, hour, health, and safety rules across the economy. Democrats believe employees who are being misclassified, including gig and platform workers, deserve wage and workplace protections including minimum wage and overtime pay, and we support using the ABC test to determine employee status. Democrats believe that all workers should be able to hold their employers accountable for unpaid or underpaid wages, regardless of corporate structure. We support using grants and collaborative relationships with community organizations to ensure that workers know their rights and responsibilities under the law. 

Democrats will strengthen labor rights for the more than 20 million public-sector employees in the United States by passing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which would provide a federal guarantee for public-sector employees to bargain for better pay and benefits and the working conditions they deserve. 

We cannot hope to raise wages without taking on the profound racial biases at work in our employment system. The wage gap between Black workers and white workers is higher today than it was 20 years ago. It takes a typical Black woman 19 months to earn what a typical white man earns in 12 months—and for typical Latinas and Native American women, it takes almost two years. Democrats believe we need to be much more proactive and aggressive in rooting out discrimination in our employment system. We will increase funding to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and increase its authority to initiate directed investigations into civil rights violations, violations of the rights of people with disabilities, and violations against LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender women of color. Federal contractors should be required to develop and disclose plans to recruit and promote people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and veterans—and be held accountable for delivering.