Workers’ Equality is an everlasting struggle for equality for workers of all kinds until the world can find and agree upon an economic system that works for all and values all.
The U.S. Economic System
The United States economic system is capitalism. Capitalism is a mode of production based on private ownership and greed as a means of production. Capitalists produce commodities for the exchange market and to stay competitive must extract as much labor from the workers as possible at the lowest possible cost. The primary interest in the capitalist system is maximum profits require maximum corporate control of workplaces, which, in turn, means that employers must be free to control the workers.
Most of the world use some form of capitalism and in this world, only about 1% of the world’s population owns 40% of the world’s wealth. There are also about 34,000 children dying every day from poverty and preventable disease, and there are about 50% of the world’s population living on less than 2 and half dollars each day. This is why reform on the world capitalist market is needed.
One of the features of our (the U.S.) economic system is that most of us most sell our ability to work in order to live. When the employers buy this ability, they think of it as their private property, and as with the rest of their property, they think that they have the absolute right to do with it as they see fit.
Let’s not forget, in a democracy, it’s “one person, one vote,” However in the marketplace, it’s “one dollar, one vote,” which is an inherently unjust equation that privileges the rich at the expense of the poor. In such statements as “let the market decide,” promoted as a primary principle by the Republican Party, the market disguises human agency, while serving the demands of the wealthy whose dollars shape the rules of the market.
Markets might be useful in determining the price of goods, however, they should not be mechanisms for determining our values as a community. Markets are oblivious to morals and promote only the value of profit.
A union is an organized group of workers who collectively use their strength to have a voice in their workplace. Through a union, workers have a right to impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work-related issues.
Most of us need to work; we do not labor for the fun of it but to pay our bills and support our families. Yet none of us can guarantee that we will have work on any given day, let alone for an entire working life. That’s where unions come in!
- A fundamental goal of a union is to change the relationship between labor and management.
- A union gives workers a “voice” in their workplaces, a way to put themselves on a more equal footing with their employers.
- Unions compel employers to listen to their employees and to respect them as human beings.
Our only hope is to stand together united, and as we have seen, when we do, we can greatly improve our lives.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) no longer protects workers who want to bargain for a better life.
Giving workers the right to form and join unions is the best way to establish and maintain the middle class, reduce economic inequality and create an economy that works for everyone.
However, during organizing campaigns, more than one-third of companies discharge workers for union activity; more than half threaten a full or partial shutdown of the company if the union effort succeeds; and between 15% and 40% make illegal changes to wages, benefits and working conditions, give bribes to those who oppose the union and/or use electronic surveillance to spy on union activists.
NLRA remedies universally have been rebuked as inadequate and ineffective.
- A 2000 report by the Human Rights Watch warned that a culture of near-impunity has taken shape in much of U.S. labor law and practice because enforcement efforts often fail to deter unlawful conduct and feeble remedies often embolden, employers, to further violate workers’ rights.
Federal labor law reform is critically necessary.
- Legislative reform is necessary to structurally change the NLRA so workers can choose union representation and achieve a first contract without fear and intimidation.
The legislation is needed to restore NLRA protection to workers wrongly excluded from the act’s protections.
‘Right to Work’
“Right to Work” provides neither rights nor work. Despite their misleading name, “right to work” laws do not guarantee anyone a job, and they do not protect workers against unfair firing.
For the benefit of the union and nonunion workers and their communities, Congress must oppose federal “Right to Work” legislation.
Congress should allow free bargaining in every state.
- “Right to work” laws must be repealed.
- Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), enacted as part of the anti-worker, anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, allows states to prohibit union security agreements.
- Section 14(b) must be repealed to allow free bargaining in every state.
The ‘Secret Ballot’
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides workers with two alternative paths to union representation and collective bargaining.
- Initiate a process with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), or
- Ask the company to voluntarily recognize the union based on majority support demonstrated by signed petitions or cards (majority sign-up).
What’s wrong with the NLRB process?
The NLRB representation election process has become a series of legal hurdles, procedural barriers and practical obstacles for workers who are struggling to form a union in their workplace.
The secret ballot isn’t so secret:
- Employers make it their business to find out how workers are likely to vote.
- Employers usually hire anti-union consultants to advise them on how to defeat the workers’ organizing campaign. These consultants advise employers about the importance of determining how workers intend to vote and counsel them about way of finding out, during repeated one-on-one pre-election meetings between workers and their supervisors.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established a national minimum wage to serve as a “floor below wages,” to reduce poverty and to ensure that economic growth is shared across the workforce. The FLSA also requires employers to pay a time-and-a-half cash premium for work performed in excess of 40 hours per week.
Congress should ensure workers receive a full day’s pay for a full day’s work by the passage of the Wage Theft Prevention Act.
- Across the country, unscrupulous employers have denied employees payment for hours worked, refused to pay the minimum wage, withheld overtime compensation, forced employees to work off the clock, shortened or denied meal breaks, stolen tips, and misclassified workers as independent contractors to avoid payroll taxes.
A minimum wage increase would stimulate the economy and Congress must pass H.R. 1010 the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
- The Economy Policy Institute estimates the most recent congressional proposal to raise the federal minimum wage would generate more than $25 billion in new consumer spending, which would result in more than 100,000 new full-time jobs, as higher sales lead businesses to hire more employees.
Congress should restore the value of the tipped credit to at least 70% of the minimum wage.
The Progressive Party of Iowa supports the right to employment as basic to all.
- The loss of a job means the loss of self-esteem and social connection.
- It can also cause immense psychological distress, along with the loss of health care coverage, the vulnerability to poverty and homelessness for oneself and one’s family.
The Progressive Party of Iowa supports a shortened workweek and allowing workers to earn a full-time income based on a 30- hour workweek.
Family, Medical, and Sick Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 was a first step in addressing the needs workers have to take the time to care for family and medical issues without risking their jobs.
FMLA requires state agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks annually of job-protected unpaid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or seriously ill family member, to recover from the employee’s own serious medical condition, to care for an injured service member in the family (up to 26 weeks), or to address qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s deployment.
Congress should strengthen and expand FMLA.
- Expand to cover workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees; dropping the employer size threshold to 20 employees would cover about 10 million more workers or 67% of the workforce.
- Reducing the hours worked requirement would make a significant difference for part-time workers and would ensure coverage for 63% of the workforce.
Congress should enact paid family and medical leave insurance.
Congress should enact legislation to provide for wage replacement during periods of family and medical leave.
- A national paid leave insurance program, modeled on successful programs in California and New Jersey, would provide workers with insurance benefits for family and medical leave.
Congress should guarantee workers can earn paid sick days.
- Paid sick days policies help reduce the spread of illness in the workplaces, schools, and child care facilities.
Congress should enact legislation that would allow workers to accrue paid sick day for their own medical needs or the needs of children, elderly parents or a spouse.
Congress should enact paid vacation time. Out of the world’s 33 richest countries, the U.S. is the only one without these paid leave days.
Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)
Workplace death and injuries are too high. In 2011, 4,693 workers were killed on the job and an estimated 50,000 more workers died due to occupational diseases. For 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 3 million job injuries and illnesses among private sector workers and 821,000 injuries and illnesses among state and local government workers.
Congress must strengthen the OSH Act.
- The OSH Act has remained largely unchanged since 1970.
- The OSH Act’s criminal penalties are weak – limited cases involving a worker death that result from a willful violation, and such offenses are only misdemeanors.
The Protecting America’s Workers Act (H.R. 1648, S. 665), which has been introduced in the 113th Congress, would expand OSH Act coverage to uncovered workers, enhance whistleblower protections and increase penalties for serious, willful and criminal violation. Congress must pass this bill!
Congress must provide additional protections for miners.
- The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act (H.R. 1373) and the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety Act (S. 805) would strengthen OSHA oversight and enforcement at dangerous mines, enhance miners’ rights and reduce the risk of coal dust explosions.
Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors
Misclassifications harm workers. Misclassification is especially common in the construction industry and is a growing problem in high-tech jobs, communications, trucking and delivery services, janitorial services, agriculture, home health care, child care and other emerging industries.
Legislation introduced in the 112th Congress by U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) would have amended the FLSA and cut down on payroll fraud, protect workers’ rights and level the playing field for all employers.
- Payroll Fraud Prevention Act sought to prevent payroll fraud by employers that misclassify their workers as independent contractors and would have provided workers with the protections they are entitled to and the benefits they have earned.
- The bill sought to protect workers from being misclassified as independent contractors, thereby ensuring access to safeguards like minimum wage and overtime, health and safety protections, and unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits.
The Davis-Bacon and Service Contract Acts
The Davis-Bacon and Service Contract Acts require contractors on federally assisted construction contracts and federal service contracts, respectively, to pay their employees at rates prevailing in the communities where work is performed.
Higher paid workers are more productive.
- A study of the 10 states in which nearly half of all highway and bridge work in this country is done, found when high-wage workers were paid double the pay of low-wage workers, they built 74.4 more miles of roadbed and 32.8 more miles of bridges for %557 million less.
Congress should continue the application of the Davis-Bacon Act on all federally assisted construction without regard to the form of federal assistance provided.
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) bring together workers from many different crafts on major public works projects under a common set of work rules, working conditions, hiring and dispute settlement practices. PLAs are collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and contractors.
PLAs have been used successfully for generations. PLAs have been used in the public and private sectors for nearly a century. PLAs first were used on the big public works projects of the 1930s. Grand Coulee Dam, Hoover Dam, and Shasta Dam all were built using PLAs.
PLAs are under attack by anti-worker politicians who are attacking our jobs, pay, and unions. They’re doing the bidding of the notoriously anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) by trying to outlaw project labor agreements.
- ABC is known for opposing such basic workers’ rights as the 40-hour workweek, fair pay measures, prevailing wages, protection from being cheated of overtime pay through misclassification, The Employee Free Choice Act and enforcement of workplace safety laws.
Worker Protections for Transit and Rail Employees
Congress should apply so-called “Section 13(c) protections for transit and commuter rail employees to all existing federal transit programs; uphold protections for freight rail workers during periods of mergers and consolidation; uphold protections for passenger rail workers as passenger rail is expanded; and oppose all effort to weaken these critical bargaining and employment rights by legislation or regulation.
- Section 13(c) protects transit workers from the adverse effects that may result from federal investment in local transit systems. The protective agreements required by 13(c) must, at a minimum:
- preserve the rights and benefits of employees under existing collective bargaining agreements;
- continue collective bargaining rights;
- protect individual employees from a worsening of their position with respect to their employment;
- provide assurances of employment to employees of acquired transit systems and priority of reemployment; and
- include paid training or retraining programs.
Congress must uphold federal protections for freight rail workers during periods of mergers and consolidation.
Free and Fair Elections (Campaign Finance Reform)
The Progressive Party of Iowa strongly supports reasonable disclosure and disclaimer requirements related to independent political expenditures and electioneering communications.
Workers and unions should be able to speak out freely about candidates and issues.
Civil and Human Rights
Congress must close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act.
- Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between genders doing the same work are truly a result of factors other than gender and would prohibit retaliation against workers who share their own salary information or inquire about their employer’s wage practices.
Congress must take steps to end racial profiling.
- End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) would prohibit any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency or officer from engaging in racial profiling and would make efforts to eliminate the practice a condition for law enforcement agencies to receive federal money.
Congress should modernize the Fair Housing Act.
- Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act would extend the civil rights protections of the Fair Housing Act to people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or source of income.