Sanders Unveils Labor Bill in D.C.

Published: 5/9/2018 11:24:22 PM
Modified: 5/9/2018 11:24:31 PM

Washington — As the crowd of hundreds waited in a Senate committee room on Wednesday, one man kicked off a sing-along.

“Solidarity forever,” he began, leading the room in a booming chorus of the longtime union anthem set to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

A few minutes later, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., arrived and the audience erupted.

It was a warm reception for the Vermonter’s latest piece of legislation — a suite of measures designed to bolster labor unions.

“This is nothing radical,” Sanders said to the group, a sea of people in red and blue t-shirts, signifying their affiliation with various national labor groups. “This simply says that when working people want to come together to form a union for decent wages and decent benefits, we will no longer tolerate corporate America denying them that right.”

Sanders cited the decline of unions as one of the “key reasons” behind economic inequality and mounting pressures on the middle class.

“What we are here to say loudly and proudly is that workers in America have the constitutional right to come together in unions and bargain collectively,” he said.

The legislation would make a series of changes to labor laws designed to make it easier for workers to organize, and would establish protections for unions.

The bill would change the requirements for unions to be recognized, so that the union could be certified if the majority of eligible workers sign on — a provision that would make it easier for workers to form collective bargaining units.

It would eliminate measures some states have adopted which have hampered unions’ ability to collect dues.

It also puts in place requirements for companies to negotiate with unions, and calls for a crackdown on some practices, like classifying workers as contractors rather than full time employees.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., introduced a partner bill in the House.

Sanders’ sponsors in the Senate include Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif. — all figures floated as possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

The event coincided with the annual meeting of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Washington, so the crowd included representatives from across the country.

But while the bill got a warm reception from the crowd on Wednesday afternoon, it is unlikely to advance under the current Republican leadership in Congress.

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