Workplace Democracy and Unions for All

To fully empower workers in our fight, we must expand workplace democracy while reducing the power bosses and big corporations have over us — at our jobs and in our lives.

We spend most of our waking hours at work. If we don’t have democracy in the workplace, then we are not living in a democratic society. The only way we can win our country back from the 1% is standing shoulder to shoulder with our co-workers and fighting back together in the workplace.

“Card Check” Recognition for New Unions

We must make it easier for workers to win recognition for new unions by doing away with the current overly complicated system of union elections and reinstating a simple majority signup process. This makes it harder for bosses to undermine unions and easier for workers to win.

Ban Mandatory Anti-Union Meetings

Current labor law allows for companies to hire high-dollar union busting firms to mount extensive anti-union campaigns when workers attempt to organize. One frequently used tactic is the “captive audience meeting” in which management forces workers, on threat of being fired, to listen to threats and anti-union propaganda, sometimes for hours at a time. We must guarantee the federally protected right to organize and ban bosses’ interference in union organizing.

Mandatory First Contract

Even when workers overcome all the obstacles and win recognition for their union, many are still unable to secure a contract. Loopholes in our current labor laws allow companies to drag their feet and avoid bargaining in good faith with their workers. We must close these loopholes and make sure bosses come to the table, negotiate, and agree to a contract in a timely fashion.

Pass the PRO Act

The “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” (PRO Act), introduced to the 116th Congress, currently has over 200 cosponsors in the House and 40 in the Senate. The PRO Act will restore many of the labor rights taken away by the passage of Taft-Hartley in 1947 and set the stage for a new resurgence in union size and strength.

Collective Bargaining Rights for All Public-Sector Workers

Many states including Texas currently prevent public-sector workers from bargaining collectively for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. We must pass the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act of 2019 and ensure that government workers are guaranteed the same right to democracy at work.

Right to Strike for Federal Workers

President Trump “shut down” the federal government from December 2018 to January 2019 in an attempt to allocate $5.7 billion to build a border wall between the US and Mexico. During this shutdown, 380,000 federal workers were furloughed and 420,000 workers were required to work without any payment. Their right to a union and a dignified life has been under attack for decades, most recently with the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, and we know more shutdowns will put more families through this ordeal over and over again. Our federal workers provide critical public services and deserve the ability to seek recourse when their homes and families are suffering. We must guarantee their right to strike.

End “Right to Work” for Less

“Right to work” laws have been passed in many states, including Texas, as part of a decades-long attack on unions. These laws weaken the power of our unions by making union membership and dues optional for workers who benefit from union contracts. Their function is to erode the collective power of workers on the job and deprive unions of resources. We must end “Right to Work” at the federal level to ensure that bosses can’t roll back union victories by dividing us up at work.

Sectoral Collective Bargaining

A sectoral bargaining system with wage boards will allow us to set wages, hours, and benefits across entire industries rather than just shop by shop, raising the floor for all workers even when they are not yet represented by a union. To win such a system, we must first help massively increase union strength by reinstating a “card check” system, banning “Right to Work,” and passing other pro-union legislation.

Transfer Control to Workers

To win a truly just and democratic society, we must have democratic control of the place where we spend so much of our time: work. That means in addition to growing the power of organized workers in unions, we must restructure the way companies function. Some ways to accomplish this are to

  • Require that half of the governing board for large corporations (over $100 million in annual revenue) be elected worker-representatives
  • Establish worker ownership centers to facilitate the transfer of small and medium sized businesses into worker-owned cooperatives
  • Guarantee a “right of first refusal” for workers at any company that goes up for sale, is closing, or being moved overseas to buy the company and provide financial assistance for them to do so
  • Create democratic employee ownership funds or a publicly owned social wealth fund in order to redistribute the massive profits made by corporations back to the workers

Universal “Just Cause” Employment Law

In most states, including Texas, bosses can fire us at any time for any reason unless we are protected by our union. “At will” employment laws exist to prevent workers from organizing to improve working conditions and to ensure no one stands up to a bad boss. Everyone deserves the security of knowing our livelihoods and our ability to meet our basic needs are not subject to the whims of bosses. We must ban “at will” employment and institute a new law ensuring that no one can be fired without “just cause.”

Worker Misclassification

For too long, employers have gotten away with misclassifying workers as “independent contractors” to shift risks and operating costs onto workers while maintaining company control over the price, pace, and style of labor and misclassifying other workers as “supervisors” to deny overtime pay and the right to join a union. Many workers spend years as “temporary” employees, and, even if they do become permanent, it is often so late in their lives that they are unable to earn retirement after decades with the same company.

This kind of misclassification is exemplified in the so-called “gig economy” where employers such as Uber make massive profits by skirting US labor laws and hiring their entire workforce as independent contractors in order to avoid the cost of wages and benefits.

In Congress, I will fight to end the ability of employers to misclassify workers so all workers can receive the pay and benefits we deserve.

National Solidarity Fund

Bosses have too much power, and workers have almost none. Workers’ biggest source of power is the ability to withdraw our labor together — to go on strike. But on top of all the laws stacked against us, for workers going on strike also means the risk of going broke.

That’s why we must create a National Solidarity Fund to pay weekly stipends to workers who are on strike or locked out. Together, we will tip the scale back in favor of workers, instead of the rich and powerful. A National Solidarity Fund would mean workers will no longer risk losing our homes or becoming unable to feed our children when we fight against bosses who create intolerable conditions at work. The fund will come from a one-cent-per-worker-hour payroll tax on employers and be administered by a board of elected union leaders.

Close the Arbitration Loophole in the NLRA

Workers used to have the right under the National Labor Relations Act to come together and sue our bosses when employers broke labor laws. It was a powerful tool to fight back against abuse. But in the last few years, major corporations and conservative judges have stripped away these rights when workers have tried to act collectively in court. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that companies can take away workers’ rights to sue their bosses together when their bosses break the law and violate their rights if they can hide individual arbitration agreements in the fine print of employment contracts. This Fine Print Loophole directly contradicts the worker protections in the NLRA. In Congress, I will write legislation to close this loophole and protect workers’ right to fight alongside each other to make our jobs and lives better.

Banning Permanent Replacement of Strikers

The strongest weapon the working class has to protect ourselves and to fight for a better world is the ability to go on strike. It’s no surprise, then, that the hard-won right to strike has been under attack by corporate powers-that-be for decades. Conservative judges have allowed bosses numerous loopholes to permanently replace workers who use our right to strike. In Congress, I will fight to stop bosses from permanently replacing striking workers and give workers the fullest protections possible when we exercise our right to strike.

Permit Secondary Boycotts and Strikes

The right to free speech, free from government punishment, is a fundamental right enshrined in our constitution. And yet, under federal law, it is against the law for unions to call for a boycott or a strike against a company, activities that are otherwise protected by the First Amendment, if the reason they are calling for it is because the company refuses to honor a picket line. I will work to do away with this double standard by pushing to repeal this law, ensuring that workers and our unions enjoy the same freedom of speech as everyone else.

Rights for Domestic Workers and Farm Workers

We must ensure that domestic workers and farm workers, who have been historically excluded from labor protections, are afforded the same rights as all workers, including the right to collectively bargain. We must pass legislation to this end such as a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and a nationwide Farm Labor Fair Labor Practices Act.

Protect Immigrant Workers from Retaliation

Bosses will routinely threaten to use workers’ immigration status against them, up to and including calling ICE in retaliation for workers acting collectively. Employers cannot be allowed to use our cruel immigration system against workers. I will support legislation that prevents immigration officials from opening deportation proceedings or any other immigration proceedings against a worker engaged in a labor dispute. Employers who use the immigration system to retaliate against workers should face civil and potentially criminal penalties.

Strengthen Penalties for Bosses Who Break the Law

The sad truth is, even where existing law is meant to protect workers, the penalty for breaking those laws is rarely more than a slap on the wrist. Bosses regularly decide that it’s worth it to break the law now and do little more than post a notice in the break room several years later. Workers need to be able to hold their bosses to account, and the repercussions for violating workers’ rights must be severe enough to meaningfully deter rich bosses. In Congress, I will push for harsher penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights and for workers to have the right to directly sue bosses for violating our rights.

Add Value to Contracts in Medicare-for-All Transition

We must make sure that workers who have fought for and won good health insurance for themselves and their families hold on to the value of their victories in any transition to Medicare for All. I support Bernie Sanders’s proposal to require employers to reopen any collective bargaining agreement affected by the implementation of Medicare for All to ensure that all savings that result from single-payer healthcare will be kept by the workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits. I also agree with Bernie that existing union-sponsored clinics will be integrated with a Medicare for All system, allowing continuity of service.