We embrace technological progress. The key question is whether the benefits of technological progress will be shared more broadly in the future than they have been for the past 35 years. New technologies offer exciting opportunities to grow the economy and strengthen workers’ ability to use digital, political, and workplace platforms to bargain together for a better life.
As our economy changes and we integrate new technologies, we must ensure that these changes promote race and gender equality, from diversity in hiring in the tech sector to the nature of new services and goods entering the economy.
In recent decades, many corporations have sought to shed their responsibilities as employers by subcontracting, outsourcing, franchising, offshoring, using permatemps, or misclassifying employees as “independent contractors.” The result has been wage stagnation and the upward redistribution of income. To address this problem, we should consider innovative and groundbreaking approaches for holding lead firms accountable for working conditions throughout their supply chains. In addition, all workers, regardless of the label given to them by the business they work for, should be entitled to fair wages, a safe and healthy workplace, freedom from discrimination on the job, freedom of association, and the right to bargain collectively.
All workers, regardless of their employment status, have a right to high quality comprehensive health care and adequate and secure retirement income. To this end, we should ensure that all workers have access to a strong social safety net of benefits that move with them from job to job. One solution is to broaden access to portable benefits delivered by governmental mechanisms. Portable benefits can also be delivered through non-governmental systems, but experience shows that these mechanisms are workable and sustainable only when workers can exercise collective bargaining power and the businesses they work for contribute towards the funding of benefits. Retirement plans should balance, manage, and pool risks and be operated solely in the interest of workers and retirees.
We live in a world where labor standards and labor protections, including protections against discrimination, are generally attached to the employment relationship. This is why the legal definitions of “employee” and “employer” – under legislation at the federal, state, and local level – must not be narrowed or weakened. Legal arrangements that deny workers the right to bargain collectively contribute to wage stagnation and economic insecurity.
Many people end up working part-time or juggling multiple jobs simply because there are no good jobs available. Others do not have access to the training or education necessary to advance in their fields and improve their lives. To make sure workers have a choice, we need policies that lead to full employment, skills development, and a strong labor movement. Strong unions raise wages for all workers, make workplaces safer, amplify the voice of working people in our politics, allow working people to play a meaningful role in improving the way their workplace operates, and give working people a greater sense of well-being.
We should not give one group of businesses a competitive advantage over another by giving them special exemptions from regulation that serves the public interest.