Sen. Elizabeth Warren issued a far-reaching labor-rights plan on Thursday with one overarching goal: to put power in the hands of American workers. Under it, she's proposing several ideas, including extending labor rights, strengthening unions, increasing the federal minimum wage to $15, expanding discrimination protections, and more.
Women are particularly in need of workers' protections. Women, and increasingly women of color, make up a substantial segment of the working class, and women still only earn about 80 cents to every dollar and experience disproportionate amounts of harassment and discrimination at work.
"Women and women of color have led the fight for workers' rights — and they continue to do that today," Warren tells Refinery29. "They are locked into lower wages, discriminated against and harassed on the job, and disproportionately work in sectors that are excluded from basic protections. My plan will empower them, help them unionize, and benefit all workers."
What's in Warren's workers' rights plan?
Warren's plan, among other things, would extend federal labor and safety protections to farm and domestic workers, who are not covered by laws such as the National Labor Relations Act. "Some of these exclusions date back to objections from Southern segregationist politicians in the 1930s, who did not want these workers (in many cases, disproportionately women and people of color both then and still today) to have basic worker protections," Warren's campaign said in a statement. "These exclusions hurt millions of workers and have no justification."
The plan also promises to address employee discrimination with new protections, including for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people. For example, Warren said she wants to ban federal contractors from asking applicants for previous salary information, a practice that often locks women into lower wages. Warren also wants to pass federal legislation prohibiting discrimination based on "traits historically associated with race," such as hair texture, citing the fact that people of color are disproportionately discriminated against due to hairstyles such as dreadlocks.
How would Warren make her workers' rights plan happen?
Many of Warren’s proposals would require congressional approval, which means Democrats would have to win back the Senate before they become law. Some of the plans would reverse various Trump administration regulations, like the overtime rule that rolled back an Obama-era regulation which doubled the salary threshold under which workers must receive overtime pay. (Trump's rule cut pay for about 8 million workers.) Warren promises to push for a new law that would keep future administrations from weakening these types of rules.
What do the other 2020 candidates want to do about labor rights?
A few of the other candidates have also put forth ambitious labor proposals. Along with Warren, most of the candidates support various pro-worker bills in Congress, including: the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, and the Raise the Wage Act.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg's labor-rights proposal includes extending federal labor and safety protections to farm and domestic workers, paid parental leave, a $15 minimum wage, and letting gig workers unionize.
Sen. Kamala Harris has focused her labor platform on women, specifically teachers, promising to raise the average U.S. teacher's salary by $13,500.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' labor platform focuses on strengthening unions. Last month, he issued a proposal consisting of a series of executive orders and bills to boost union membership, punish union-busting employers, and improve wages and benefits.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar's labor-rights plan includes expanding union rights, such as preventing interference in union elections, a $15 federal minimum wage, banning companies from permanently replacing workers who participate in a strike, rolling back "right to work" laws, and rescinding executive orders from the Trump administration that limit collective bargaining.
Compared to these candidates, Joe Biden and Andrew Yang have offered less-detailed labor platforms. Biden supports a $15 minimum wage and wants to make it easier for workers to form unions. Yang makes no mention of unions in his platform, but supports paid leave and equal-pay efforts like salary-disclosure laws.