South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Friday released a detailed plan for workers, offering proposals to strengthen union bargaining power, raise the minimum wage to $15 and offer national paid family leave.
Buttigieg‘s plan falls in line with the policies introduced by House Democrats, including some that have alienated moderates. It represents an attempt to win over the party’s left wing as well as blue-collar workers who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
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What would it do?
Buttigieg’s plan would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and index it to inflation thereafter, mirroring a bill passed by House Democrats in late July.
The proposal would impose a national ban on state “right-to-work” laws, which prevent unions from collecting mandatory “fair-share” fees (those fees cover the costs of collective bargaining but don’t fund political activity). Buttigieg says he will empower the National Labor Relations Board, the body that governs collective bargaining, to issue multimillion-dollar penalties to companies that violate employees’ rights. The penalties would “scale automatically with the company’s revenue,” according to Buttigieg’s campaign.
The mayor would seek to adopt a stricter legal test, in addition to legislation, making it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors, a change that would affect thousands of gig-economy workers.
Under the plan, employers that seek to persuade employees against joining a union would also have to provide equal time for unions to discuss the benefits of organizing.
Buttigieg also aims to expand collective bargaining units by allowing employees at multiple work sites to join together under a single union. Such a change would allow workers at separate locations of one business — for example, the employees at a fast food brand in a metropolitan area — to organize under a one roof. In addition, the plan would extend equal union rights to farm and domestic workers.
Buttigieg would seek to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave under the Democratic FAMILY Act. He would also support legislation requiring predictable work schedules and increase funding for wage theft enforcement.
Buttigieg also aims to prevent documented workers from being deported when they report workplace violations.
Buttigieg would support legislation to prevent sexual harassment by banning nondisclosure agreements and require public companies to report the number of settlements and judgments from harassment. He also wants to require companies to disclose female employees’ salaries compared to men’s, and he supports legislation to prevent employers from using pay history to determine an employee’s salary.
How would it work?
The vast majority of Buttigieg’s proposals would require approval from Congress. That would be a heavy lift in the current climate; progressives wrestled for weeks with the party’s moderate wing over the recent minimum wage bill. And it would be nearly impossible if Democrats don’t take back the Senate in 2020.
There are a couple items on Buttigieg’s agenda that he might be able to do on his own. With a Democratic majority on the NLRB, Buttigieg‘s appointees could make it harder to classify workers as independent contractors. But that, too, would require a Democratic majority in the Senate to prevent Republicans from blocking the nominees.
He could also instruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement not to deport workers who report workplace violations.
What have other candidates proposed?
Buttigieg’s proposals align with what other Democrats support. Many of them are based on bills already introduced in the House.