If Biden wants to help workers, he can fully implement the National Labor Relations Act, which hasn’t been enforced in 86 years.
“Workers need guaranteed affordable childcare, and by now $15 an hour doesn’t even cut it.”
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
But that's just the trouble
"Do it slow"
"Do it slow"
"Do it slow"
"Do it slow"
Do things gradually
“Do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"Do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
From “Mississippi Goddam,” Nina Simone
I received the following email from somebody I struggle with about incremental change: “We all are so used to being cynical about Democrats baby-steps for reform but this is huge.”
What he considers huge is the Executive Order Establishing the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. Although some delusional people are calling Biden the new FDR, President “nothing will fundamentally change,” is certainly not committed to working people.
If the US truly cared about workers, to start with, there would be monthly checks to all who lost income due to Covid, as many capitalist countries have done:
Percent of wages currently subsidized by governments due to Covid:
Japan: 100% for small businesses; 80% for large firms
Netherlands: Up to 90%
Norway: Up to 90%
Germany: Up to 87%
France: Up to 84%
United Kingdom: Up to 80%
Canada: Up to 75%
United States: 0%
If the US truly cared about workers, sick days and health care would be guaranteed for all, so workers wouldn’t go to work sick and could access medical care. Workers need guaranteed affordable childcare, and by now $15 an hour doesn’t even cut it. Student debt is drowning children of working families struggling in a workforce under Covid. If Biden truly cared about workers, with a stroke of his pen he could eliminate minate federal student loan debt. Workers who are behind on rent or mortgage due to Covid need their housing debt forgiven, and eviction and foreclosure prohibited. Lest we forget, homelessness exacerbates covid. The banks need to eat it for a change.
If the US truly cared about workers, medical debt would not be the largest cause of bankruptcy. Democrats received more money from drug companies than Republicans in the 2020 election. So are we surprised there will be no regulation on drug prices?
“Workers who are behind on rent or mortgage due to Covid need their housing debt forgiven, and eviction and foreclosure prohibited.”
During the presidential campaign, Biden promised to seek legislation to reduce drug prices by having the government use its leverage with drug manufacturers through the Medicare program. But at some point in the last few weeks, the administration decided not to include a proposal on drug prices in the new policy blueprint. The Huffington Post nails it: “The governments of nearly all developed countries negotiate directly with manufacturers over prices, in one way or another. Giving the U.S. government similar power is wildlypopular, according to polls, in no small part because the relatively high cost of prescriptions here is such a burden on so many Americans.”
A friend, with health insurance, was recently charged $1,700 for required school vaccinations for her two children in California, where in her home country of Zambia, it would have cost her $40. If Biden was truly committed to working people, why is there such a financial burden to keep our kids safe and healthy?
So what are Joe and Kamala giving us? A Task Force. As somebody told me when a growing movement to end JROTC [Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp.] in SF lost steam after a task force was established, “If you want to kill something, give it a task force.”
Marty Walsh, Vice Chair with Kamala Harris, is heralded as the first union member to serve as Secretary of Labor in nearly 50 years. He declared he will “ensure that working people have one of their own at the table every time a major decision is made that affects their lives.” One in a table of 20? Of 12? And only for major, not minor, decisions? What an insult!
Biden issued executive orders restoring collective bargaining in the federal sector, but collective bargaining is already protected under international law. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ICESCR] is a treaty adopted by the UN which commits its signatory nations to work for economic, social and cultural rights including labor rights, the right to health, education, social security, and an adequate standard of living. 171 countries have ratified the treaty, but the Senate has yet to do so. If Biden truly cared about working people, he would urge the Senate to ratify the treaty.
The recent Amazon union defeat in Alabama allows Jeff Bezos to continue making over $13 million an hour off the sweat of his workers. In These Times asserts that “The election showed the clear limitations of pursuing union certification through a broken NLRB election process... A far simpler way for workers to gain union certification and their collective bargaining rights is through a procedure called ‘card check.’ If a simple majority of workers sign cards authorizing a union to be their representative, then their employer would be compelled to recognize and negotiate with the union that workers chose. This provision was part of the 2009 Employee Free Check isn’t part of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) now Choice Act (EFCA) that, despite Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, died during President Obama’s first term. Unfortunately, card check isn’t part of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) now pending in Congress.” Why not?
“The PRO Act died during President Obama’s first term.”
The White House Fact Sheet describing the executive order makes a glaring understatement: “There is still much more the federal government can do to empower workers.” It adds, “Since 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was enacted, the policy of the federal government has been to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining, not to merely allow or tolerate them. In the 86 years since the Act was passed, the federal government has never fully implemented this policy.”
Although I hope I am wrong, I doubt that Biden’s will be the first administration in 86 years to fully implement the NLRA. Talk is cheap. If the task force was sincerely committed to a “whole-of-government approach to empower workers,” it knows what to do. Failure to address the myriad and pervasive combined crises of late-stage capitalism and Covid could bring about the structural changes workers have been hungering for.
More than 42 million people in the US filed for unemployment in the first 11 weeks of the Covid crisis, and during that time, the nation’s billionaire wealth rose by more than half a trillion dollars. If an elected government is not committed to its working people - the majority - is it legitimate? What has the advice to “go slow” gotten us? Malcom X said: "That's not a chip on my shoulder. That's your foot on my neck." People with a foot on their neck don’t say go slow.
Riva Enteen, former Program Director of the SF National Lawyers Guild, is a lifelong peace and justice activist, retired social worker, lawyer, and editor of "Follow the Money," a collection of Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints Interviews. She can be reached at [email protected].
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