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Model Employer

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I can see why some people are flouncing away from the Democratic Party again because both parties are the same amiright and so only real revolution will come from voting for Jill Stein, or even better, not voting at all so that your precious bodily fluids purity will be retained. After all, we all know the Democratic Party hates working people, right?

Rich Yeselson hopes the Democratic platform is going to approve of an executive order for a “model employer” clause.

The union-funded organization Good Jobs Nation developed the proposal, which has two key planks:

Preference in federal contracts and some subsidies to “model employers” who pay at least $15 per hour and meet a standard package of benefits, including health insurance and sick leave, and provide stable, full-time hours.

Contractors would have to affirm, rather than impede, the right of their employees to unionize in return for a no-strike or “labor peace” pledge by the employees.

The liberal think tank Demos calculated in 2013 that there are at least 2 million low-wage workers earning less than $12 an hour who work for companies that benefit from federal contracts.

These workers range from home health care aides whose jobs derive from Medicare and Medicaid to janitors in the federal buildings, such as the US Capitol. The hope is that the federal government would use its leverage to promote union organizing and construct a model of labor management relations for the rest of the private sector. The basic idea has gathered considerable steam at the municipal level, where 120 localities have already issued similar orders — but the federal government’s reach is clearly much further.

Yeselson goes on to accurately summarize the relationship between unions and politics in the United States, correctly stating that unions have always had to have political support in order to win anything substantial (the leftist argument that “unions should give up the political game and just organize”–which you will even hear labor historians make at scholarly labor conferences– drives me up the wall).

But while the economic legacy of wartime pro-union efforts persisted for decades, the politics that shaped those policies collapsed almost immediately due to the United States’ uniquely union-hostile business community. Unions themselves, fearful of government intrusion, have often preferred a voluntary relationship between labor and management. But in the United States labor must, to some extent, rely upon the state to ensure the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain.

As the historian Nelson Lichtenstein writes, “In every other capitalist nation, a strong bureaucratic state either preceded or simultaneously emerged with the multi-division firm, but this pattern was reversed in the United States.”

In other words, in America, big business — complete with a “desperate sense of individual autonomy” among owners and managers — precedes the existence of big government, leading those owners and managers to fiercely resist unionization during the New Deal era and afterward.

Moreover, the fragmentation of the business sector across a heterogeneous, continental-size nation favored decentralized economic development rather than the cooperative triad of business, labor, and government that emerged in much of Western Europe. The more disaggregated capitalist production was in the United States, the more essential it was for each firm to sustain flexible labor costs and to fight union efforts to standardize those costs across industries.

Consequently, there is absolutely no consensus in the United States in favor of the shared legitimacy of business and unions. One result is that federal labor policy oscillates wildly depending on which party controls appointments to the NLRB.

Given these structural and historical circumstances, only a national political party sympathetic to unions is able to give them a fighting chance. Given their tenuous, always contested position in the American political economy, absent the active support of the federal government for unions, they wither. And when unions wither, wage inequality rises, and civil society is impoverished as well.

And really, this goes back to the late 19th century, when American employers took a much harder line against unions than employers in Britain and France.

That’s why it makes sense for union-centered policies developed within Democratic Party politics to be a major source of the platform and further executive actions, even if legislation might not be possible. I know Hillary Clinton is history’s greatest monster and all and maybe isn’t AUTHENTIC in her beliefs about workers, but she has moved to the left significantly and likely will continue to do so as long as people are protesting in the streets for a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, and the many other things this nation needs to fight inequality.

But hey, my feelings about authenticity and my anger toward Debbie Wasserman Schultz are more important than policies to help working Americans, so I’m voting Jill Stein and when Trump wins IT WILL TEACH THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY A LESSON THEY WON’T SOON FORGET JUST LIKE IN 2000!

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