Bernie Sanders Releases Sweeping ‘Workplace Democracy’ Plan

The Vermont senator's plan is meant to empower trade unions, and 'restore workers’ rights to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.'

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum.
Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

The Vermont senator's plan is meant to empower trade unions, and 'restore workers’ rights to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.'

On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders released a sweeping “Workplace Democracy” plan.

The Vermont senator’s plan, which is available in full on his campaign website berniesanders.com, is meant to empower trade unions and “restore workers’ rights to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.”

The Sanders campaign cited a number of statistics meant to demonstrate that there is a causal relationship between a decline in workplace democracy — unionization — and a rise in income inequality. According to data presented on the White House hopeful’s campaign website, union workers earn 22 percent more than non-union workers, and union workers have better benefit pension plans than non-union workers.

Furthermore, according to Sanders, corporate America has long fought against unions in order to preserve its interests and raise profits. They’ve done this by hiring outside consultants to wage anti-union campaigns, threatening workers, and forcing them to attend “anti-union propaganda” meetings.

According to Sanders, the goal of his Workplace Democracy plan is to double union membership during his first term in office.

Under Sanders’ plan, employers would no longer be able to classify workers as independent contractors or label them supervisors, they would no longer be able to use contractor arrangements, and they would be obliged to begin negotiating with workers 10 days after receiving a request from a newly formed union.

Employers who “refuse to negotiate in good faith” would be penalized, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would be allowed to certify a union, provided it receives support from a majority of workers.

Under Sanders’ plan, his campaign website states, the permanent replacement of striking workers would be outlawed, as would the forcing of workers to attend anti-union meetings.

Via executive order, the Vermont senator would — if elected president — seek to prevent companies from receiving federal contracts if they pay their workers less than $15 an hour, if they fire and replace striking workers, or if they pay their executives 150 times more than the average worker.

If elected president, Sanders would sign into law the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which is meant to “guarantee the right of public employees to organize and bargain collectively.”

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According to the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign website, the act would allow federal workers to strike in the case of a government shutdown, which they were not able to do in December 2018 during the longest shutdown in United States history, when federal government employees worked without pay for 35 days.

A number of similar initiatives and policy proposals is laid out on Sanders’ website, and all of them are meant to “reverse the 40-year decline of the middle class.” This includes ways to “strengthen unions and restore bargaining power to workers.”

According to The Guardian, Sanders first introduced a Workplace Democracy Act bill to the United States Congress in 1992. The most recent version of the bill, which Sanders introduced together with Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate, and 61 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.