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Sanders unveils plan to double union membership in first term

Sanders unveils plan to double union membership in first term
© Aaron Schwartz

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care Biden: 'Difficult decision' to staff administration with House, Senate members MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday unveiled his “Workplace Democracy” plan aimed at doubling union membership in his first term and boosting middle-class wages.

“Corporate America and the billionaire class have been waging a 40-year war against the trade union movement in America that has caused devastating harm to the middle class in terms of lower wages, fewer benefits and frozen pensions,” Sanders said in a statement.

“That war will come to an end when I am president. If we are serious about rebuilding the middle class in America, we have got to rebuild, strengthen and expand the trade union movement in America.” 

Sanders's plan works to cement his backing of the labor movement as he seeks to shore up support among the Democratic Party’s progressive flank and claw higher in polls of the crowded presidential primary field.

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The proposal would allow the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a majority of eligible workers consent and enact “first contract” provisions that mandate employers to begin negotiating within 10 days of receiving a request from a new union and lay out a mediation process.

Sanders also calls for the end of “at will” employment, which would require employers to provide a “just cause” for terminating an employee, legalizing the right of federal workers to strike and instituting a “sectoral collective bargaining” system that would let labor and management negotiate standards for entire industries rather than individual companies.

The plan goes on to propose a federal law guaranteeing the right of public employees to organize and collectively bargain, a requirement that merging companies honor existing union contracts and the implementation of a “fair transition” to Sanders’s “Medicare for All” health care plan, among other initiatives.

Sanders said that should Medicare for All be signed into law, companies with union-negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations and any company savings from reduced health care contributions would make their way to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.

The Vermont Independent has long cast himself as an ally of unions, proposing a bill in 2018 that mirrors many of the changes in his new plan. That legislation was co-sponsored by several senators who are now challenging Sanders for the Democratic nomination, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach No, the government cannot seize, break or 'bypass' pharmaceutical patents — even for COVID-19 MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mexican president breaks with other world leaders, refusing to acknowledge Biden win until election is finalized MORE (Calif.), Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (N.Y.).