Five takeaways from Warren’s sweeping labor proposal

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, released a sweeping labor proposal Thursday that aims to bolster worker protections and make it easier for unions to assert their rights.

Warren’s plan calls for a variety of policies that would build on the progressive lawmaker’s work in the Senate.{mosads}

The release of the 14-page plan comes a day before her scheduled participation in a Service Employees International Union forum with other 2020 presidential candidates.

Here are five takeaways from Warren’s plan.


Protecting domestic and agricultural workers

Warren’s plan calls for overhauling labor laws, which don’t fully cover domestic and agricultural workers. The outdated laws were “originally motivated by outright racism or sexism,” Warren said, arguing they leave out protections for workers in sectors predominantly held by women and people of color.

To remedy that, Warren said she would push for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and Fairness for Farm Workers Act, legislation that would address some of the existing exceptions.

Implementing those bills would significantly expand the number of workers, particularly in low-wage jobs, covered by federal labor law. Employers in those industries have argued such protections would add to their costs.

She said she’s also committed to “ensuring that these workers have the right to organize” through the National Labor Relations Act, which doesn’t cover domestic and farm workers, or “other means.”


Ending worker ‘misclassification’ in gig economy fields

Warren’s plan pushes for a bill that would stop what she calls the “misclassification” of independent contractors. The issue affects the rideshare industry, led by Uber and Lyft, but touches on other jobs in the gig economy.

By classifying a worker as an independent contractor, companies can avoid providing many of the same worker protections required for full- and part-time employees, keeping costs lower for employers.

The proposal from Warren calls for enacting a federal law similar to the California one that was signed into law last month and supported by Warren.

In addition to her proposed federal law, Warren said she would make “worker misclassification” a violation of labor statutes.


Backing a $15 minimum wage

Warren confirmed in her plan that she would push for the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the minimum federal wage to $15 an hour for all workers.

In addition to pushing for the legislation, Warren said that on Day One of her presidency she would sign an executive order requiring all federal contractors to implement a $15 minimum wage.

The push for raising the minimum wage to $15, from its current rate of $7.25, has been a rallying cry on the left in recent years, with proponents such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Warren’s chief progressive rival in the Democratic presidential primary.

The House passed a $15 minimum wage bill in July. The measure has not been taken up in the GOP-controlled Senate.


Penalizing violations of worker protection laws

Warren outlined a plan to increase penalties for violations of wage-and-hour laws, worker safety rules and anti-discrimination statutes.

Her plan doesn’t detail any penalty thresholds, but said she aims to “substantially” increase the penalties that are now capped at $1,000 for violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, and $10,000 for repeated violations of child labor laws.

Warren also said she plans to “substantially” increase funding for departments that enforce worker protections, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center and the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department.

She does not specify how “substantially” she would increase funding for those agencies and offices.


Pushing for industry-wide bargaining

Warren said she backs what’s known as sectoral bargaining, a system widely used in Europe that has not been adopted on a large scale in the U.S. The approach allows workers in any industry, whether it be in fast food or childcare, to negotiate across the sector, rather than bargaining on a company level.

Warren’s said sectoral bargaining benefits workers since it makes every firm bound by the same bargaining outcome, limiting incentives for an employer to resist collective bargaining over fear it puts their business in a weakened position relative to competitors. 

Her plan calls for amending federal labor laws to promote sectoral bargaining, strengthening the ability of labor organizations to improve wages, hours and working conditions on an industry-wide basis.

Tags Bernie Sanders economy Elizabeth Warren gig economy labor law Labor relations Minimum wage

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