Politics

Bernie Sanders Introduces Labor Law Reforms

| by Sean Kelly
Sen. Bernie SandersSen. Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, along with other progressive legislators, introduced a law designed to expedite the process by which labor unions are formed and penalize companies that delay negotiations with unions. 

The legislation, called the Workplace Democracy Act, was sponsored by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont along with Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and was announced on Oct. 6, Al Jazeera America reports. it aims to eliminate the two-stage balloting process for labor union elections — thus making it easier and quicker for workers to form unions.

“If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country,” Sanders told reporters, according to Al Jazeera America.

Union membership has seen a consistent decline over the last four decades, thanks mostly to the difficult formation process, labor union leaders say.

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Under the current law, 30 percent of employees at a given workplace must sign union authorization cards before a labor union election can be held. If this step is completed, employees must then obtain a majority vote in favor of the union; only then will a union get certified.

Sanders' proposed legislation would condense these two steps so that if the majority of workers sign the authorization cards, a union will be certified. 

“The fact that in the last three years workers have been striking and not holding elections shows that workers know labor law as it is doesn’t work,” Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director for the labor coalition Change to Win, said. 

“The current regime doesn’t work; we need alternatives to the NLRB election system," he added.

Geevarghese expressed doubt that the Workplace Democracy Act would pass, citing Republican majority in the House and Senate. Unions are instead relying on executive branch action to see change happen. 

“It would be great for Congress to pass labor law reform,” he said. “But that said, there’s very little likelihood that the Workplace Democracy Act is going to pass, and in the absence of congressional will, I think it’s incumbent on the president to act."

Sources: Al Jazeera America, People’s World / Photo credit: AFGE/Flickr, Gage Skidmore/Flickr