Pete Buttigieg unveiled a plan to end the systematic attack on labor and organized workers during his most recent trip to Iowa.
His plan will allow undocumented workers to report labor violations without fear of repercussions, force companies to reveal their gender pay gap numbers and his administration will give contractual preference to companies who treat their workers fairly.
“In the last 30 to 40 years, the stagnation of income for the middle class and the decline of union membership have happened basically at the same time. That’s not a coincidence,” Buttigieg told a crowd in Ankeny. “That’s the reason.”
“It’s also not a coincidence that union membership dropped after conservative lawmakers systematically sought to silence the voices of workers from Washington to Wisconsin,” he said. “Or here, in Iowa, where the Legislature stripped public employees of their bargaining rights.”
Laws that strip collective bargaining rights are why union membership rates have fallen from 15 percent in 1990 to 8 percent today, he said.
“Basic labor protections, child and safety labor standards, these things came about not on their own but because people stood up and demanded it,” Buttigieg said. “And now it’s our turn to stand up again and empower workers in the name of our values and in the name of building a fair economy with a more flexible and resilient workforce for a tomorrow that benefits all of us.”
Buttigieg’s newest policy promises workers predictable hours, predictable wages and the predictable support they deserve by guaranteeing access to paid sick leave and paid family leave.
If companies don’t offer leave plans of their own, Buttigieg said under his new plan they will be required to pay into a state fund that workers can draw from.
He called for a $15/hour minimum wage, which he said will lift up 33 million American workers, including half-a-million workers in Iowa.
“While we’re at it, we’re going to change how we establish how the economy is growing,” Buttigieg said. “We are not going to measure it by abstract numbers like the GDP. We are going to measure it by how is the 90 percent doing.”
“In my administration, I will measure America’s economic success based on your paycheck,” he said.
He also said he will amend laws to make sure employers can’t misclassify their workers and will put multi-million dollar penalties on employers who interfere with union elections.
“My administration will give contractual preference to employers who do right by their workers,” Buttigieg said. “We also know a lot of people have been excluded from labor protections who are among the most vulnerable, like domestic workers and farmers.”
“We are going to protect undocumented workers from retaliations if they report labor violations,” he said.
Buttigieg’s new plan also addresses the gender pay gap by forcing businesses to share their pay gap data publicly.
“You already collect the data. You may as well put it out,” Buttigieg said.
He said he hopes that plan will encourage companies to promote and retain women in higher paying roles.
Back under Ronald Reagan, the country’s workers were promised a rising tide that would lift all boats, Buttigieg said.
“The funny thing is, we got the rising tide part,” Buttigieg said. “The GDP came up, stock markets came up, but for 90 percent of us our boats barely budged at all. They were effectively roped down to the ocean floor.”
“You’ve got to ask while this economy grows, who is this economy growing for? There are whole neighborhoods in my community and around the entire country where it’s like the recovery never even happened,” Buttigieg said. “Because we’re living in the most unequal economy of modern times.”
by Paige Godden
Photo by Julie Fleming