Elizabeth Warren announces labor plan to empower workers and raise wages
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan Thursday to give American workers more power, protections and higher wages.
The presidential hopeful’s plan, posted to Medium, would extend labor rights to all workers, protect pensions, and strengthen workers’ rights to organize, bargain collectively and strike. It would expand worker protections and combat discrimination.
“American workers don’t have enough power,” Warren argues in her post, because big corporations and their allies have waged a “systematic attack on unions.” Warren, who has made anti-corruption and anti-big money central themes of her presidential bid, advocates for creating a “stronger labor movement.”
The senator pledges to both use executive action, to work with Congress and leverage the federal procurement process “to pursue the most progressive and comprehensive agenda for workers since the New Deal.”
Warren, who officially launched her 2020 presidential bid at the site of a historic 1912 labor strike led by women and immigrants, writes in her new plan she wants to make it easier for unions to assert their rights, including the right to strike.
Parts of her plan echo the bill she introduced in the Senate last year, the Accountable Capitalism Act, which would require American corporations to have 40% of their directors elected by their own workers, obtain shareholder and board approval for any political spending (which must then be made public), and put the brakes on the pace at which top executives can sell off stock in their own companies.
The Massachusetts Democrat writes, if elected, she would fill any future Supreme Court vacancy with a demonstrated advocate for workers. She pledged to “remake the federal courts with nominees who support working people.”
The senator would prohibit non-compete clauses in employment contracts, and ban “no-poach” agreements, which she writes prevent one franchisee from hiring an employee from another franchisee. Warren argues they violate anti-trust laws and suppress wages.
Her plan would extend basic protections to farm workers and domestic workers, who she says are not fully protected by core federal laws that protect and empower workers. It would end what she calls the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, because employees have several rights under federal law that independent contractors do not enjoy.
The senator writes she wants more employees to gain collective bargaining rights, and to clarify that graduate students are employees who can unionize. Warren’s plan would guarantee public sector workers the right to organize and expand the rights of federal workers.
The plan would prevent employers from exploiting undocumented workers and driving down standards for all workers, and would also extend protections to home care workers. Warren supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers, and in her plan proposes providing more overtime pay to millions of workers by expanding an Obama-era overtime rule.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants and an emerging progressive union leader, praised Warren’s proposal.
“This plan not only addresses all of the policy issues that keep workers from gaining the right to negotiate, but it puts real power back in the hands of workers to raise wages with the full right to strike in every sector,” Nelson told CNN.
Warren’s plan advocates for increasing anti-trust scrutiny of consolidation that drives down wages. The senator has previously advocated for breaking up tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook, targeting the power of Silicon Valley with her populist message. Her plan would limit employer interference in union elections, amending antitrust law to protect gig workers, and crack down on intimidation by state and local officials.
The president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Sara Nelson, expressed her support of the plan to CNN and said in a statement, “This plan not only addresses all of the policy issues that keep workers from gaining the right to negotiate, but it puts real power back in the hands of workers to raise wages with the full right to strike in every sector.”
The Working Families Party, a liberal organization founded in New York, last month endorsed Warren for president. The organization endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of the 2016 primary, but this year voted to support Warren over Sanders with a 2-to-1 margin, highlighting an emerging primary season divide.