ChrisWeigant.com

Labor's Agenda Should Become Democrats' Top Priorities

[ Posted Monday, September 4th, 2017 – 16:29 PDT ]

Since today is Labor Day, I thought it was time to point out something that seems incredibly obvious to me. If you listen to the inside-the-Beltway chatter, Democrats are currently seen as floundering around, searching for an agenda. This is less true than the cocktail-party-circuit crowd believes, but whatever. Simultaneously, Democrats are urged to try to win back the working-class vote, because Donald Trump supposedly seduced them all away with his empty promises. Again, the answer to this perceived problem is pretty obvious. The Democratic Party needs to rededicate itself to the Labor agenda -- thus giving it a solid agenda to fight for, and also a perfect way to woo back white working-class voters.

There are plenty of items on the Labor agenda to choose from, because workers' rights have atrophied so much in the past few decades. Democrats need to select a limited number of these, and then promise immediate action on all of them should they win back control of either house of Congress. Here are six quick suggestions for changes that Democrats could easily champion:

 

Fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, with COLA

This one is the most obvious, and indeed is already part of the Democratic platform. This needs to be front and center in the Democratic campaign, next year. After all, the only people really opposed to raising the minimum wage are Republicans. Some Democrats are leery of going all the way to $15 per hour, but the likelihood is that any bill that passes will have a generous transition period built in to it, which should allay these fears somewhat. But "Maybe ten bucks for rural areas, twelve-fifty for small towns, and fifteen for the cities" is not an effective political slogan. "Fight for $15" is. Democrats need to bite the bullet and wholeheartedly support $15 an hour. If the minimum wage rises, it will send ripples of rising wages from the bottom upwards through all the corporate ladders out there. It will benefit everyone, and is the exact opposite of trickle-down economics, so it is a perfect fit for Democrats.

Much more important than quibbling about the target number, though, is a side issue few have really noticed yet. To forever end the partisan gridlock surrounding the minimum wage, Congress needs to free itself from ever having to fight this fight again, by passing a minimum wage hike with a built-in cost of living adjustment. Having a COLA means every year the minimum wage creeps upwards a bit -- which should avoid gigantic political battles over the subject, forever. Congress has already proved this possibility, with their own wages. They used to have enormous political fights over raising their own pay, until they decided to just give themselves a COLA and never have to vote for it again. The same thing can happen with the minimum wage, if an adequate COLA is written into the law.

 

Overtime pay for everyone under $50,000 a year

Barack Obama dithered on this, but finally did come through with a new overtime rule for all workers. But because he had waited so long, it was easy for Trump to block the move when he took office. Basically, the rule mandates that everyone under a certain base pay per year be paid on an hourly basis, period. This includes overtime for hours worked past a 40-hour workweek. So instead of businesses being able to exploit workers by calling them "managers" -- thus avoiding any overtime pay at all -- people would be paid for the hours they work, until they are paid a professional's salary (which should be pegged at $50,000 a year or even higher). This will give overworked Americans either more free time to enjoy life, or more pay each week.

 

Guaranteed paid sick leave

Everybody gets sick occasionally, but not everybody has paid time off to deal with it. What we need is a universal law that states each employee will accrue paid sick leave at a certain rate. When they have more than eight hours accrued, they can take a day off and not lose their pay. This is a peace-of-mind issue that workers would welcome.

 

Guaranteed paid vacation time

If you work full time, you should get a guaranteed two weeks of paid vacation each year. Those who don't work full time should still be able to accrue vacation time (just at a slower rate, depending on the hours worked). Progressives are fond of pointing out that every other industrialized country on the planet has universal health care, but for some reason they never point out that every other industrialized country also mandates paid vacation -- and in most of them, this is much more than a mere two weeks. So why can't America join the rest of the civilized world in this respect as well?

 

Medicare for all who want it

Speaking of universal healthcare, Democrats need to bring back the idea of the "public option." People should be able to choose -- but not be forced into -- a "Medicare For All" system. It should be an option on all the individual insurance market exchanges, and it should also be open to all, not just those in a particular age group. But it should remain optional, so those who are happy with their health insurance now won't be forced into a change they don't want. But for those that do, a public option should be available for all who want it.

 

Hike the Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Credit has one thing going for it that the others don't -- some Republicans strongly support an expansion of it. Politically, this makes it a much easier goal to achieve. The E.I.C. is a refundable credit that people can claim on their income taxes. It works to benefit the "working poor." If you work but make little money, when you fill out your taxes you may actually get a refund larger than any taxes you had to pay. Rather than paying money in income taxes, you are rewarded for working by what is essentially a government subsidy. Raising the amounts given is a very easy way to positively benefit millions of working Americans.

Of course, the problem of the "working poor" would also largely be solved by paying the working poor an actual living wage. If the minimum wage is hiked to $15 an hour, perhaps the E.I.C. wouldn't wind up being all that big a program. Still, an E.I.C. hike could take place immediately, so it still would help through the transition period from the current minimum wage as it stair-steps its way up to $15 an hour.

 

Those are just six ideas that seemed the most obvious to me. There are plenty of others out there. Breaking up big banks, strengthening anti-monopoly laws -- there are a lot of big issues left to tackle. But the whole point is that Labor has been fighting for these issues for decades, and in doing so they've figured out a concrete agenda full of such good items. All Democrats need to do is rededicate themselves towards fighting for these issues, and (importantly) fighting for them at the front of the line -- before all other Democratic agenda items. Put the worker first.

The case is pretty easy to make, because it has been made so many times before. Why should we raise the minimum wage? Because a rising tide lifts all boats, that's why. Why should every other country's workers get three, four, five weeks of paid vacation when we get none? We're as good as they are, and Democrats want to make American workers number one in the world once again! Democrats want to help workers first, because that helps people of every race, creed, religion, color, or identity all at the same time. A rising tide lifts all boats.

As I said, the case is pretty easy to make, especially since all the Republicans have to offer in response is trickle-down economics: "We'll give your boss another gigantic tax cut and maybe your life will improve, somehow!" If, after all of Trump's grandiose promises, this is all that happens under his watch, then the case for Democrats to make against it will be even easier.

The best way to make sure a Trump never happens again in American politics is to beat him at his own game when it comes to the American worker. Imagine if a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president swept into office and enacted these six items into law in their first 100 days of office. Tens of millions of people's lives would improve almost immediately, and they'd have Democrats to thank for the change. Rather than just blather about making America great again, Democrats could actually deliver concrete and positive change for American families across the land. If the Democrats really are searching for a platform, all they need to do is stop by the local Union hall and they'll find a great agenda waiting for them, chock-full of good ideas to champion.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

34 Comments on “Labor's Agenda Should Become Democrats' Top Priorities”

  1. [1] 
    neilm wrote:

    Simple, effective, and opposing this squarely puts you in the bosses' camp.

    This is basically what left wing parties right up to Clinton/Blair fought for.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Personal note to taztunes -

    Apologies for not approving your comment to last week's single-payer article until now.

    Your comment is now up:

    http://www.chrisweigant.com/2017/08/31/selling-single-payer-as-a-hassle-free-option/#comment-108611

    and you should be able to post without being moderated from now on.

    Sorry for the delay, again. Mea culpa maxima and all that...

    :-)

    -CW

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: But "Maybe ten bucks for rural areas, twelve-fifty for small towns, and fifteen for the cities" is not an effective political slogan. "Fight for $15" is.

    Yep... "Fight for $15" because people apparently aren't interested in policy details and how a $15 minimum wage is not sustainable in many rural areas in the South, and people will basically believe anything and seem to want to be lied to these day so... roll with it, I say. :)

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Rather than just blather about making America great again, Democrats could actually deliver concrete and positive change for American families across the land. If the Democrats really are searching for a platform, all they need to do is stop by the local Union hall and they'll find a great agenda waiting for them, chock-full of good ideas to champion.

    It is truly sad that most Democrats need to be reminded of this.

    I can think of one Democrat who doesn't need to be reminded of what it means to be a Democrat and who understands very well what went wrong for Democrats in the 2016 presidential election and his name ain't Clinton.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here's a good piece in the Financial Times that speaks to the importance of unions in balancing the needs of employers and employees and how the decline of union members in the workforce has paralleled the rise of income inequality.

    https://www.ft.com/content/180127da-8e59-11e7-9580-c651950d3672?emailId=59abdd595e358c000411be1c&segmentId=ce31c7f5-c2de-09db-abdc-f2fd624da608

    Senator Biden is also the most vocal Democrat on the importance of unions in the labour agenda and I'm sure he understands how the union movement needs to adapt to a 21st century economy.

  6. [6] 
    John M wrote:

    I think we have the outlines now of a winning strategy for Democrats by combining all the pieces of the puzzle that everyone has been correct about:

    1.) C.W.'s 6 points from above; minimum wage hike, overtime pay, paid sick leave, paid vacation time, medicare public option, and expanded E.I.C.

    2.) Don Harris's network of small contribution donors. Bernie Sanders proved this was possible, and Elizabeth Warren is on board with it, though Kamala Harris is not.

    3.) Michale's prescription to drop identity politics. White resentment works for Republicans but the reverse is not true for Democrats.

    This doesn't mean Democrats no longer support a liberal social agenda. Only that progressive liberal economics should take center stage.

    Combine Joe Biden's statesmanship, Bernie Sanders's populism, and Elizabeth Warren's fortitude. What do you think?

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'll tell you what, John, we certainly don't need to read Hillary's fourth memoir to find a Democratic road map to the future.

    Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'm not that strong

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Seriously, though ... I think if you add a revamping of the labour unions with the necessary adaptations for today's economy, then you're set with a very good platform for the Democrats in 2020.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Just one more thing I would add to your list, John ...

    In the context of the Trump era where governing is of, by and for the base, Democrats need to actually be inclusive instead of talking about being inclusive. I'm not talking identity politics because I agree with you and Michale on that score. I'm just talking about making sure the political rhetoric, especially at Democrat rallies and such, does not in any way, shape or form pit one group of Americans against another.

    I think one of Secretary Clinton's most consequential mistakes of her last presidential campaign was uttering the phrase 'basket of deplorables'. In fact, that may have been the most critical factor in her loss.

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since today is Labor Day, I thought it was time to point out something that seems incredibly obvious to me. If you listen to the inside-the-Beltway chatter, Democrats are currently seen as floundering around, searching for an agenda. This is less true than the cocktail-party-circuit crowd believes, but whatever. Simultaneously, Democrats are urged to try to win back the working-class vote, because Donald Trump supposedly seduced them all away with his empty promises. Again, the answer to this perceived problem is pretty obvious. The Democratic Party needs to rededicate itself to the Labor agenda -- thus giving it a solid agenda to fight for, and also a perfect way to woo back white working-class voters.

    The problem with that is Democrats will have to give up identity politics to align itself with middle class workers..

    And Democrats have PROVEN that they are unwilling to do that...

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    3.) Michale's prescription to drop identity politics. White resentment works for Republicans but the reverse is not true for Democrats.

    I'm not talking identity politics because I agree with you and Michale on that score.

    Ya'all can't see me now, but I am blushing.. :D

    Here's the problem as I see it..

    "I am really concerned about my stagnant wages and the fact that I can't seem to get ahead"
    -Joe SixPack

    "You should be more concerned about which bathrooms transgendered should be able to use!!"
    -Democrat Party

    "Well, gee.. I am sure that's important :^/ but I am talking about feeding my family.."
    -Joe Sixpack

    "YOU RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC DEPLORABLE!!!! GET OUT OF MY FACE!!!!"
    -Democrat Party

    And, for good measure, the Democrat Party/Antifa pulls out a baseball bat and starts beating Joe Sixpack over the head...

    And THAT is exactly the problem the Democrat Party faces...

    They hate middle class workers, they can't relate to middle class workers and they can't win elections without middle class workers..

    Something's gotta change and I can assure ya'all that it's NOT going to be the middle class workers...

    I think one of Secretary Clinton's most consequential mistakes of her last presidential campaign was uttering the phrase 'basket of deplorables'. In fact, that may have been the most critical factor in her loss.

    Exactly... NOT-45 is the quintessential Democrat and that is the EXACT attitude that Democrats have.. If they don't march lock-step with the agenda of the Democrat Party, they are "deplorables" and only worthy of scorn and violent attacks and assaults...

    Unless the Democrat Party radically changes it's course, there will never be another Democrat Majority in our lifetimes...

    You heard it here first..

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Unless the Democrat Party radically changes it's course, there will never be another Democrat Majority in our lifetimes...

    You heard it here first..

    And I am sure ya'all are scoffing at that prediction..

    Just as ya'all scoffed at the prediction that we would have President Trump. :D

  13. [13] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Liz-
    "I can think of one Democrat that doesn't need to be reminded of what it means to be a Democrat and who understands very well what went wrong for Democrats in the 2016 presidential election and his name ain't Clinton."

    I am only technically a Democrat because I switched to Democrat to vote for Bernie in the primaries. :D

  14. [14] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    JohnM-
    It probably not a surprise I approve of your list in comment 6. Thank you.

    The problem Democrats face with many citizens is not that citizens disagree with what Democrats say they will or want to do, they just don't believe the democrats when they say it based on many previous times they have not done what they promised.

    (insert quote from John Snow about broken promises)

    A commitment to small contribution campaigns would help restore some credibility for Democrats.

    If you missed it, check out comment 47 and 48 of "Two Big Deadlines Are Fast Approaching" for information on my petition to get Ralph Nader to address the One Demand campaign financing approach.

    or

    https://www.change.org/p/ralph-nader-address-one-demand-campaign-financing-approach

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I am only technically a Democrat because I switched to Democrat to vote for Bernie in the primaries. :D

    Very nice, Don! :)

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    Michale
    11

    "YOU RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC DEPLORABLE!!!! GET OUT OF MY FACE!!!!"
    -Democrat Party

    And, for good measure, the Democrat Party/Antifa pulls out a baseball bat and starts beating Joe Sixpack over the head...

    And THAT is exactly the problem the Democrat Party faces...

    They hate middle class workers, they can't relate to middle class workers and they can't win elections without middle class workers..

    Here's the problem as I see it. Your hate for the Democratic Party is alive and well. Your creative nonsense that the "Democratic Party/Antifa" will beat somebody over the head with a baseball bat is an exercise in playing identity politics... the very thing you claim to abhor. You claim to have a problem with lumping and labeling, but you seem oblivious to the fact that you are... in FACT... the biggest lumper and labeler on this board; you only have a problem with others doing it to you while you continually do it to others. It would serve you very well to realize that your Orange Idol came to power using the identity politics of white male grievance, the same white identity politics the Republicans have been playing for decades... only exponentially so for Benedict Donald.

    Exactly... NOT-45 is the quintessential Democrat and that is the EXACT attitude that Democrats have.. If they don't march lock-step with the agenda of the Democrat Party, they are "deplorables" and only worthy of scorn and violent attacks and assaults...

    Oh, oh... my turn: Donald Trump is the quintessential Republican Neo-Nazi Fascist, and that is the EXACT attitude that Republicans have. If people don't march lockstep with the agenda of the Neo-Nazi Republican Party, they are "animals" and "stupid" and only worthy of scorn and violent attacks and assaults... ISIS style by running them over with a vehicle... "not even people" according to Eric Trump.

    Your ever present hatred for Hillary aside, I know a lot of Democrats, and they are not violent unless provoked or defending themselves. For somebody who whines continually about being lumped and labelled by Hillary, you are seemingly oblivious to the FACT that you've got this propensity yourself to lump all Democrats into one basket and label them as people who violently attack and assault others. Did it ever cross your mind that you're doing EXACTLY to Democrats what you claim to abhor?

    In case you missed it, my point here is this: You're projecting your hatred onto others. Your hatred for Hillary and Democrats is well-documented. You reiterate over and over how much Democrats hate everybody who disagrees with them, but I haven't found that to be the case, and I have friends who identify as Democrats, Republicans, and NPA; none of them are violent people unless they're defending themselves, and the majority of them have sworn to protect our country against enemies foreign and domestic.

    Unless the Democrat Party radically changes it's course, there will never be another Democrat Majority in our lifetimes...

    You heard it here first..

    For probably the 50th time, and here you go again with your creative nonsense as if it's something brand new. *LOL* The pendulum always swings back, and it will so again, particularly since Benedict Donald is painting the Republican Party into a corner. Or perhaps you're just planning on a very, very short lifetime. :)

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    Blaaa Blaaa Blaaaa.. Just more bullshit and lies from the resident stalker who only comes to this forum when I am around so that she can spew her lies and bs..

    No facts, no proof... Just more and more BS...

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    What can we expect from a person who defends NAZIs.. :^/

    We were having such nice conversations and debates and then the lying biatch shows up..

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kick won't respond to that, Michale ... we are going to stay above the fray! :)

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, watch your language ...

  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:

    Kick won't respond to that, Michale ... we are going to stay above the fray! :)

    We WERE.. But I am not going to let such BS go unchallenged...

    She wants to "debate" by personal attacks and BS.. Then that's how we "debate"...

    And, watch your language ...

    I softened it for your sensitivities :D

  22. [22] 
    Michale wrote:

    Kick won't respond to that, Michale ...

    Oh, she'll respond.. I know my stalker... She will definitely respond.. :D

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If you just ignore her, that would be the better option ... the harder option, albeit, but the better option.

    You must trust me on this. :)

  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:

    If you just ignore her, that would be the better option ... the harder option, albeit, but the better option.

    You must trust me on this. :)

    Could you ignore someone who spewed personal BS about you on a daily basis??? Who'se *SOLE* reason for being here is to harass you and attack you???

    I don't think you could.. But if you could.. Well, yer definitely a better person than *I*... :D

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I certainly could just because I have no time to respond to nonsense.

    You should know that, Michale! :)

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:

    I certainly could just because I have no time to respond to nonsense.

    You should know that, Michale! :)

    But here's the thing..

    Can you remain silent thru all the "lies" that Trump and Republicans say???

    Can anyone here??

    No, ya'all can't.. Because those "lies" must be challenged...

    Right???

    So how is Victoria's lies any different??

    How can I let her personal attacks and her childish name-callings go without challenge??

    We were having a nice debate and discussion... She shows up and immediately starts with the personal attacks and name-calling..

    And I am supposed to just ignore it??

    Why??

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    If Victoria's lies are allowed to go unchallenged, then they take on the veneer of truth...

    And that just cannot be allowed to happen..

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Yes, I can and I often do ... too many lies to keep up with and there are others whose job it is to keep up on that sort of thing so I don't have to.

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    [27]

    I strongly disagree ...

  30. [30] 
    Michale wrote:

    I strongly disagree ...

    I am sure you do.. :D

    Just as I am sure that if it happened to you on a constant basis, you would feel differently.. :D

    It's kewl.. I'll handle it.. :D

  31. [31] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why doesn't it happen to me on a constant basis??

  32. [32] 
    Michale wrote:

    Why doesn't it happen to me on a constant basis??

    Because you toe the Party line...

    I don't.. :D

    But, I'll tell ya what.. I'll ignore Victoria for a week starting right now..

    We'll see how it goes...

  33. [33] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What party line is that?

    You don't have to ignore everything - just the nonsense.

    I know what you're thinking! :)

  34. [34] 
    Michale wrote:

    What party line is that?

    That President Trump is evil incarnate and can't do ANYTHING that isn't evil, nefarious and heinous..

    You don't have to ignore everything - just the nonsense.

    I know what you're thinking! :)

    Exactly.. :D

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