Details of Dem draft platform reveal many strong pro-worker planks

Many strong pro-worker planks, including the right to organize, stronger labor law, endorsement of the “$15 and a union” campaign and equal pay for equal work lead off the draft Democratic platform for the 2016 presidential campaign. The party’s full platform committee will debate and adopt its final version a session in Orlando, Fla.

The platform, to be discussed July 7-8 before being sent to convention delegates, also includes many other pro-worker provisions-except on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

There, the platform walks a fine line between Democratic President Barack Obama’s strong support of “free trade” and the jobs-losing TPP and overwhelming worker opposition to the TPP and support of balanced “fair trade” that does not cost U.S. workers’ jobs.

On the one hand, the platform says past trade pacts should be reviewed and their worker rights’ sections strengthened, and that “core labor standards” must be written into the trade pact texts. On the other, it says the party is split on the TPP. Congressional Democrats also overwhelmingly oppose it, even though the Democratic president is pushing it.

And weaving through the platform are constant criticisms of the presumed GOP nominee, business mogul Donald Trump, his anti-worker stands and Republican positions.

The party’s platform drafting committee, meeting in St. Louis, adopted the document by a 13-1 vote on July 1, with one absence. After praising its progressive planks, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., runner-up in the Democratic presidential nominating contest to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, criticized it on two big issues: The TPP and single-payer government-run health care. On several issues, the six Clinton and four Democratic National Committee-named members of the drafting panel outvoted the five Sanders backers.

Sanders promised to take the TPP battle to the party convention in Philadelphia, along with a battle over single-payer. Sanders is single-payer’s top congressional advocate, and more than 20 unions, led by National Nurses United and the Steelworkers, are also campaigning for it. TPP aside, the specific worker rights language, includes:

“The current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union.

After applauding Democratic-run states that raised the minimum, the platform says the U.S. should raise it nationally and index it to inflation. “We should…give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy. We also support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities,” the platform says.

“Democrats support a model employer executive order or some other vehicle to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union. The $1 trillion spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class.

“When workers are strong, America is strong. Democrats will make it easier for workers, public and private, to exercise their right to organize, and join unions.

 “We will fight to pass laws that direct the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards, and that bring companies to the negotiating table. We support binding arbitration to help workers that have voted to join a union reach a first contract.” Those were in the Employee Free Choice Act.

The platform said an “attack at all levels” on the right to collectively bargain is “a major reason for the 40-year decline in the middle class.” It adds “Donald Trump would make matters worse by creating a race to the bottom where the middle class is fighting over fewer and fewer good-paying jobs. In fact, Trump rejected some attempts by his own employees to unionize and personally hired union-busting firms to undermine workers’ rights.

“So-called ‘right to work’ laws are wrong for workers and wrong for America. We will continue to vigorously oppose those laws and other efforts that would eliminate dues check-off procedures, attack prevailing wage standards, abolish fair share requirements, restrict the use of voluntary membership payments for political purposes, and require annual recertification.”

Mistreated consumers and workers “should never be denied their right to fight for fair treatment under the law. We support efforts to limit forced arbitration clauses in employment and service contracts that unfairly strip workers, consumers, and students of their right to their day in court,” the platform says.

“We will fight to secure equal pay for women and-after 240 years-finally enshrine the rights of women in the constitution by passing the Equal Rights Amendment. While Donald Trump thinks it is ‘dangerous’ for women to leave the home and that paid family leave hurts our economy, Democrats will make sure the United States finally enacts national paid family and medical leave that would provide at least 12 weeks” of leave. The plank also pledges to “fight to allow workers the right to earn at least seven days of paid sick leave.”

The platform also wants to “ease the burden on family caregivers” by expanding, strengthening and boosting wages for home care workers, including child care workers and caregivers for the elderly. Other pledges included, but were not limited to:

Creating “a major federal jobs program” to bring U.S. infrastructure into the 21st century. That includes creating an infrastructure investment bank and investing in high-speed broadband, a Communications Workers cause. “These investments will create secure, good-paying middle-class jobs today and will substantially increase demand for American-made steel and other products manufactured” here, the platform says. But it did not say how much Democrats would invest.

Opposing “every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age or to diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments.” The platform promises to expand Social Security’s aid for recipients by giving women Social Security credit for the time they spent raising children or caring for sick family members and aging parents. To pay the increased costs, the Dems would “tax some of the income of people above $250,000.” The current cap on taxable income is $118,500.

Giving workers “priority and protection when pension plans are in distress” and protecting “the earned pension benefits of Americans in multiemployer pension plans.” In that, as in other areas, the platform was not specific. But it also says Democrats will oppose “any attempt by Republicans in Congress or on Wall Street to roll back” the Labor Department’s rule that bans financial “advisors” from putting their own interests first. Obama just vetoed a GOP-passed measure overturning that rule.

Rejecting efforts “to privatize or marginalize” the Postal Service, which the GOP has tried to do and which postal unions and Sanders have fought. The Democrats also want to kill the $5.5 billion yearly mandate ordering USPS to pre-fund future retirees’ health care costs. That mandate, imposed by a GOP-run Congress a decade ago, accounts for 86 percent of postal red ink. Eliminating it is a top postal union cause.

And the party wants to restore overnight delivery of first-class mail and periodicals in the same metro area, maintain six-day service and let the USPS add to its income by offering basic financial services, as it did until 1966.

Supporting revival of factories through a “Make It In America” plan similar to such plans U.S. House Democrats have rolled out over the past two Congresses. Those, however, have sunk from sight due to GOP control.

The factory plan would “create thriving hubs of manufacturing and innovation throughout the country, and claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, using the proceeds to reinvest in communities and workers at home instead.

“Donald Trump may talk tough, but he has consistently outsourced his own products. American workers deserve better,” the platform comments.

Cracking down on Wall Street, by re-erecting the wall between consumer banking and financial trading, imposing a financial transactions tax on each trade, banning “excessive” bank fees on consumers and going after the financiers and the banks legally. “Democrats believe no bank can be too big to fail and no executive too powerful to jail. ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ will not just be words engraved on the entrance of the Supreme Court. It will be the standard that applies to Wall Street and all Americans…Our goal must be to create a financial system and an economy that works for all Americans, not just a handful of billionaires.” 

Photo: AP


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of the People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C.   Gruenberg has been editor-in-chief of PAI since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jarvis bureau chief for the Middletown NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for the Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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