We need more democracy in our economy. Right now, the economy is set up as small monarchies and oligarchies, governed by secretive, closed-door boardrooms, dominated by shareholders and insiders who care about lining their pockets, not contributing to society. Much more so than government, the companies we work for dictate our lives. This system erodes freedom, equality, and democracy. It’s time to give workers a say and have a truly participatory economy.
Russ will be one of the most pro-union members of Congress in the country, because he is a member of DC-37, AFL-CIO, AFSCME. In fact, he has been rated by Data for Progress as one of the most pro-union "politicians" in the country, far surpassing the incumbent representative's record. That's because Russ is running to represent the people against exploitative, irresponsible corporations, just as unions represent the workers.
Unions won us the weekend, child labor protections, and the 40-hour work week. When unions were strong, one job could support a family. Unions helped build the highest standard of living the world has ever seen. It's no secret that the decline of wages over the past thirty years has been linked to the decline of unions.
Strong unions means better wages, better working conditions, and a bigger share of the profits that employees create. Union employees earn 25% more per hour, and receive better benefits, on average, than non-union workers. Divided we beg, united we bargain.
Russ supports these policies to strengthen unions and increase democracy in the workplace, for all of us:
1. Promoting the right to unionize for better wages, better hours, better benefits, overtime pay, and better working conditions, a key to growing the wealth of the working class.
2. Guaranteeing the right to strike, and banning "strike busting" workers from becoming full-time employees.
3. Ending the "independent contractor," "supervisor," and “franchise” loopholes. All employees deserve benefits and protection from bad actors in the workplace. Irresponsible corporations must be held liable for their actions and those of their subsidiaries.
4. Requiring "just-cause" employment, where any firing must be based on a sufficient "business" reason and may require an explanation.
5. Enabling employee governance: Mandating, in certain firms and industries, that 50% of boards be elected by the employees of the company.
6. Abolishing all "right-to-work” laws, which are anti-union, across the country.
7. Expanding union recognition with union card checks. Once 51% of employees sign a union authorization card, the union must be immediately recognized and negotiation must begin within 10 days. Within 90 days there must be a contract, or binding arbitration will begin. Employers may not interfere with union activities outside of negotiations.
8. Standardizing union contract clauses.
9. Upholding union contracts during corporate mergers and acquisitions.
10. Protecting pensions and passing the Keep Our Pension Promises Act.
11. Banning the mandatory arbitration of negotiations with the NLRB.
12. Enshrining labor protections in the National Labor Relations Board, and removing the requirement of appointments by the executive branch. Instead, recognized unions shall meet and elect board members of the National Labor Relations Board.
13. Allowing special "strike funds," funded by unions, to guarantee pay for union workers that are on strike. Strikes present a unique scenario: the business loses profits and the workers lose income. Allowing unions to transfer income to striking members would encourage negotiations, empower employees, and discourage crossing the picket.
14. Repealing most provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which handcuffs union activities. This will include a ban on employer-sponsored anti-union propaganda.
15. Allowing industrial sector unions to negotiate nationally, as is done in every industrialized nation.
16. Banning discrimination in the workplace with the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ+ people from workplace discrimination.
Labor justice does not end at unionization, however. We must take a number of other steps to promote employee rights:
Ensure the right to a fair schedule. If you’ve worked in the restaurant industry, you know how frustrating it is to not know your schedule more than a few days in advance. You’re unable to plan ahead or know how much income you’ll have next week. Russ has been there, and he knows that change is needed. We must put an end to "on-call" scheduling for industries where it is not required. For example, companies with greater than 20 employees should have to give at least one week's notice of schedules. If an employee is given less than one week’s notice, they must be paid a bonus, unless the shift is voluntarily picked up. This law is on the books in New York, and can scale up to the entire country.
Create a “right of first refusal” for employees. If a company decides to sell, close a shop, or ship overseas, employees should be given the opportunity to purchase these assets. Federal funding for loans to purchase them should be provided if the employee-purchased assets will be owned as a worker cooperative for the public good. This will protect local jobs and create opportunities for worker-owned cooperatives.
Win the trade war. Require all corporations with any business in the US to comply with all United States labor and environmental regulations. Protect domestic and agricultural workers. Penalize companies that close US plants.
Protect the medical benefits that employees have bargained for. Transition to Medicare for All with a “no loss of quality” guarantee. The National Labor Relations Board will oversee new union contracts, requiring that employer savings from Medicare for All be passed on to workers through benefits or increased wages. Never again will CEOs be able to deny your health benefits--as the GM CEO did to the UAW Labor Union--because they disagree with your free speech.
Codify standards for federal contractors.
Every federal contractor must:
1. Be a union shop.
2. Pay a living wage.
3. Create three jobs in the US for every two moved overseas.
4. Limit CEO compensation to no more than three times the average worker’s full time salary.
5. Refrain from union busting and anti-union propaganda activities. Failure to uphold these standards must bar the contracting company and its executives from ever receiving federal contracts again.
Pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (H.R.2474). This bill would help restore unions to their former effectiveness. It would allow legal action and financial penalties against companies that participate in union busting. It would also push back against so-called right-to-work laws that have decimated unions and empowered exploitative bosses over the last decade.
Increase employee ownership. Establishing a national worker cooperative incubator for startups and employee-owned companies that pledge to serve the public interest, not private profit, first.