Warren unveils comprehensive labor plan to strengthen unions, workers rights

Warren unveils comprehensive labor plan to strengthen unions, workers rights
© Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenRestless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Biden eyes new path for Fed despite Powell pick MORE (D-Mass.) unveiled a plan to raise wages and strengthen the rights of workers to organize on Thursday, saying that "returning power to working people will be the overarching goal" of her presidency if she is elected. 

On Day One of a Warren administration, she said she would sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and she said she'd push Congress to pass a $15-per-hour minimum wage for all workers, including disabled workers and tipped workers.

Warren said she would prohibit states from adopting "right to work" laws, and that she would back "card check" rules strongly opposed by business groups that would make it easier for unions to organize workers by allowing a union to be certified if a majority of employees sign union cards or otherwise offer support. 

Warren said she would reinstate an Obama-era rule that made more workers eligible to be paid overtime — a rule the Trump administration rolled back. She also said she would update the rule's salary threshold so that more workers would qualify for overtime. 

She said she would work to repeal a portion of the Taft-Hartley Act that allows employers to compel workers to attend anti-union meetings, and that she would otherwise work to limit employer interference in unions.

“We cannot have a truly democratic society with so little power in the hands of working people," Warren, who has been rising in national polls in the Democratic presidential contest, said. 

She said she would work to nominate judges who are “demonstrated advocate[s] for workers” to fill any Supreme Court vacancies, extend certain worker protections to domestic workers and farm workers and change laws to make it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. 

The independent contractor issue has resulted in complaints directed toward ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft, but Warren said the problem is much broader. She noted her backing of a California law that would end the practice of classifying certain workers such as those at Uber and Lyft as independent contractors.

The plan also includes a proposal to push for Warren’s Accountable Capitalism bill that would require companies with $1 billion or more in annual revenue to let employees elect no less than 40 percent of the company’s board members. 

She also calls for prohibiting noncompete clauses in employment contracts, arguing they lead to lower wages and lower wage growth. She also said she would work to eliminate "no-poach" agreements that she said prevented one franchise from taking workers from another. Like noncompete clauses, she said the provisions led to lower wages.

Warren would narrow the definition of a supervisor in a way intended to allow more workers to unionize, and adopt a "joint employer" standard meant to ensure that a company such as McDonald's would be seen as the employer of workers who work at its franchises.

Warren has steadily built momentum in the presidential race with a string of policy-focused proposals on a broad variety of issues. 

She will take part in the next Democratic debate on Oct. 15.