Dems announce ‘Better Deal’ for workers

Proposal would ban RTW, strengthen workers’ freedom to join together, negotiate


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 2, 2017) — Democratic members of Congress offered a glimpse Wednesday of what they would be doing to reform labor laws if they were in the majority: removing barriers to forming unions so more Americans can join together and negotiate fair wages and benefits. The proposals begin to flesh out the party’s “Better Deal” agenda to raise wages, create jobs, lower the cost of living, and “build an economy that gives working Americans the tools to succeed in the 21st Century.”

Democrats would start by banning states from enacting so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) laws intended to destroy unions. These laws, which have racist origins, deny unions and employers the freedom to negotiate union-security clauses in labor contracts. Banning such clauses is intended to stop union members from paying for representation and forcing unions to provide services, and the benefits of the contract, for free. The goal is to weaken unions and lower wages and that is exactly what happens in states that enact such laws. Republican efforts to enact a RTW law in Washington state earlier this year was blocked by Democrats at the State Capitol.

Other Democratic proposals include creating new penalties for companies that engage in illegal union-busting, banning the use of permanent replacement workers during strikes, and ensuring public employees’ freedom to join together and negotiate, a freedom that has been restricted or taken away by Republican governors in states like Wisconsin and Iowa.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Democrats were flanked by unions leaders including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, NEA President Lily Eseklsen García and AFT President Randi Weingarten. The labor leaders said the pro-labor agenda will help restore the connection between working families and the Democratic Party.

“To be perfectly honest, Democrats in the past have lost some of their connection with working people in our communities who made up their base for generations,” Trumka told The Hill. “But this ― these proposals ― will strengthen that bond.”

The announcement of a progressive, pro-labor agenda stands in stark contrast to what President Trump and the Republican-controlled House and Senate are trying to accomplish at the Capitol.

“Instead of working with us to find solutions to help grow our economy and strengthen the middle class, our Republican colleagues today are unveiling a plan that would give massive tax breaks to corporations and billionaires and will raise taxes on working families to pay for it,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) at Wednesday’s news conference. “Democrats are fighting for ‘A Better Deal’ to help working families put a little more money in their bank accounts and build an economy that works for them. So I’m proud to join my colleagues today to roll out our vision to strengthen workers’ bargaining power—and their right to join a union to advocate for safer working conditions, better pay, and a secure retirement.”

Here’s what the Better Deal for American Workers proposal would do:

► Strengthen penalties on predatory corporations that violate workers’ rights, and combat misclassification of workers as supervisors and independent contractors.

► Strengthen workers’ right to strike for basic workplace improvements, including higher wages and better working conditions.

► Create a mandatory mediation and arbitration process to ensure corporations and newly formed unions reach a first contract.

► Ban state laws that undermine worker freedoms to join together and negotiate.

► Provide millions of public employees with the freedom to join a union and collectively bargain with their employers.

► Streamline the National Labor Relation Board’s (NLRB) procedures to secure worker freedoms and effectively prevent violations.

► Protect the integrity of union elections against coercive captive audience meetings.

► Use federal purchasing power and policy to help expand opportunities to negotiate.

Read these full Better Deal for American workers plan here.

“This is a which-side-are-you-on moment,” said AFT’s Weingarten. “The better deal starts with collective bargaining. It starts with having the freedom to negotiate, and it starts with unrigging the laws to ensure that.”

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