The Republicans Just Passed a Platform That Would Eviscerate Workers’ Rights

Victoria Albert July 20, 2016

The platform dismisses the widespread call for a nationwide minimum wage (Erik Drost/ Flickr)

The Repub­li­can Par­ty’s offi­cial 2016 plat­form, released this week, proud­ly states the great­est asset of the Amer­i­can econ­o­my is the hard work­ing American.”

The writ­ers must have a twist­ed sense of humor.

In a not par­tic­u­lar­ly unex­pect­ed move, the par­ty plat­form evis­cer­ates the hard work­ing Amer­i­can,” deny­ing work­ers of their right to union­ize while tar­get­ing their most vul­ner­a­ble communities. 

Grand old union busters

Per­haps the strongest anti-union fea­ture of the Repub­li­can Party’s plat­form is the call for nation­al right-to-work (RTW) leg­is­la­tion. RTW laws, the bane of unions nation­wide, pre­vent unions from col­lect­ing fees from non-mem­bers, who nev­er­the­less ben­e­fit from unions’ griev­ance and bar­gain­ing services.

The plat­form claims that these laws will pro­tect the eco­nom­ic lib­er­ty of the mod­ern work­force,” but in fact, they do just the oppo­site. Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Labor and Con­gress of Indus­tri­al Orga­ni­za­tions, work­ers in RTW states make $5,791 (12 per­cent) less per year than work­ers with­out RTW, and are far less like­ly to be insured.

More impor­tant­ly, RTW weak­ens unions by forc­ing them to serve those who don’t pay for their ser­vices. When Michi­gan approved a right-to-work law in 2012, its union mem­ber­ship dropped by 48,000, despite the addi­tion of 44,000 new jobs.

The plat­form also tar­gets both union­ized Trans­porta­tion Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion employ­ees and the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board (NLRB)’s pres­ence in Native Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, with Repub­li­cans pledg­ing to cor­rect (the) mis­take” of per­mit­ting TSA employ­ees to orga­nize, and claim­ing to defend trib­al gov­ern­ments from the Democ­rats’ egre­gious” pro-union influence. 

A gov­ern­ment for the people

We pledge to make the gov­ern­ment work for the peo­ple,” reads the plat­form, not the oth­er way around.” Yet for the country’s most finan­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble — the 3.9 per­cent work­ing for min­i­mum wage — the Repub­li­cans offer nei­ther sup­port nor protection.

The plat­form dis­miss­es the wide­spread call for a nation­wide min­i­mum wage, assert­ing that the mat­ter should be han­dled on a state and local lev­el,” and pledges to repeal Davis-Bacon, a 1931 act man­dat­ing that fed­er­al con­struc­tion projects pay union-lev­el (read: liv­ing) wages.

It has even less mer­cy for the undoc­u­ment­ed. The plat­form echoes Don­ald Trump’s racist rhetoric with its total rejec­tion of amnesty for undoc­u­ment­ed work­ers. It also sup­ports his pro­pos­al for build­ing a wall between the U.S.-Mexico bor­der, with the intent of keep(ing) dan­ger­ous aliens off our streets.”

In the pre­am­ble to the plat­form, Repub­li­cans claim their plan lays out — in clear lan­guage — the path to mak­ing Amer­i­ca great and unit­ed again.” Yet if the Repub­li­cans’ path to great­ness is to be built on the backs of Amer­i­can work­ers, it is a great­ness of which we should all be wary. 

Vic­to­ria Albert was a Sum­mer 2016 edi­to­r­i­al intern at In These Times. She is now pur­su­ing a master’s degree in mag­a­zine jour­nal­ism at New York Uni­ver­si­ty. She tweets at @victoria_alb3.
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