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 SandersWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll The polls are asking the wrong question Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt 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 Ann WarrenWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Warren avoids attacks while building momentum Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Iowa GOP swipes at 2020 Democrats' meat positions as candidates attend annual Steak Fry Warren avoids attacks while building momentum MORE (Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerIowa GOP swipes at 2020 Democrats' meat positions as candidates attend annual Steak Fry Booker aide sounds alarm about campaign's funding 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBooker aide sounds alarm about campaign's funding O'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Gillibrand relaunches PAC to elect women MORE (N.Y.).