Elections

Dem Party Platform Is A Big Labor Wish List

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Democratic delegates further aligned their party with the labor movement Monday after approving a new platform during the Democratic National Convention.

The new party platform includes many policies that unions have fought to enact for years. The platform drafting committee included support for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a more open immigration system and Wall Street reform. It also opposes right-to-work laws and the The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“These principles stand in sharp contrast to the Republicans,” the party platform states. “This election is about more than Democrats and Republicans. It is about who we are as a nation, and who we will be in the future.”

The Democratic platform includes both policies the party has supported in the past, plus a few new ones. Previous platforms, for instance, have not included the $15 minimum wage, as the policy only became popular among party members in the last few years. The new platform now makes the policy an official party position.

“Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage,” the party platform notes. “No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour.”

Labor unions have highly opposed states enacting right-to-work laws for decades. The policy outlaws mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act first allowed states to decide whether they want to be right-to-work or not. There are now 26 states that have enacted the policy, but Democrats are committed to fighting it.

“Democrats believe so-called ‘right to work laws are wrong for workers,” the platform also notes. “We will continue to vigorously oppose those laws and other efforts that would eliminate dues check-off procedures, roll-back prevailing wage standards, abolish fair share requirements.”

Labor unions have denounced TPP as a harmful giveaway to corporations. President Barack Obama finalized the deal Oct. 5, but it has remained a major wedge between him and many within his own party. Some party delegates and union officials took to the convention floor out of concern the platform didn’t go far enough in opposing the trade deal.

“Trade deals often boosted the profits of large corporations, while at the same time failing to protect workers’ rights, labor standards, the environment, and public health,” the platform states. “These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Labor unions have also fought tirelessly for a more open immigration policy. They note the current system exposes immigrants to exploitation because they are forced to work in the shadows. A more open immigration system could also help unions replenish their membership, which has been in sharp decline over the decades.

Unions have already paved the road to get the millions of illegal immigrants into their ranks. They have set up training, workshop and recruitment programs all specifically aimed at illegal immigrants that may be eligible for amnesty under an executive order currently being fought in the courts.

Wall Street reform has also been a favorite target of union leadership. Unions often blame corporate greed for income inequality and for undermining mandatory union dues. The AFL-CIO has blamed the financial service sector for the recent economic crisis and for benefiting large banks and corporations at the expense of small businesses and workers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders was a huge influence on the party platform despite losing to presumptive party nominee Hillary Clinton. His campaign garnered significant support, which put pressure on the party to shift more to the left. Sanders introduced a bill in July 2015 with the aim of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and has been adamantly opposed to TPP.

The Fight for $15 movement also pushed the committee to support the $15 minimum wage throughout its drafting process. The movement has helped lead the policy push on the national and local level since it started in 2012. It confronted committee members June 8 in Washington, D.C. to demand the policy become an official party position.

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