By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
It’s very important that our trade agreements incorporate human rights, workers’ rights and environmental standards in the core agreements, just as we place guarantees of property rights in those agreements. We are not asking for developing countries to have our own standards at this stage in their economic development. We are asking that they abide by the principles they’ve already agreed to when they signed the U.N. Charters on Human Rights and Child Labor. But these principles are seldom enforced, and most countries don’t encourage multinational corporations to adhere to those standards either. Within the U.S., we need to develop policies that reward corporations that do adhere to labor and environmental standards, and penalize those that do not. The rewards can take the form of tax relief, of federal contracts, of singling out these corporations for public praise. As to the institutions that set the rules for the global economy, they need far more transparency and openness in their dealings, and they too need to set standards that support working people abroad, and reinforce their ability to maintain good living standards here at home and in the other more economically advanced nations.
Americans are assured of their democratic rights in the society at large, but many of them have no such rights — for example, free speech and freedom of association — in their work places. We need to guarantee their right to form unions without the fear or reality of intimidation by the employer. Official statistics show that one in 10 workers on an organizing drive is fired. Even more are subjected to suspensions, changes in their work schedules, a loss of hours they need to support their families. Firing workers during these campaigns is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, but the only penalty the employer faces is to pay the worker his or her back wages. We need a change in the law to raise the penalty to treble the damages with additional penalties as well, following the precept in common law that an intentional violation of a contract merits an additional layer of punishment. Fundamentally, we need a change in the law that would enable workers to form unions without fear of retaliation. The way to do that is to authorize organizers and workers to collect the signatures of workers on cards that say they support forming the union, and when a majority of workers have signed those cards, the union would be recognized under law as the employees’ representative. Additionally, employers would be required to observe strict neutrality during that process. This process — card-check neutrality — is the best way to assure that workers can win their rights in their workplace.
Campaign Finance Reform (ideas suggested by Nick Nyhart, executive director, Public Campaign):
The current system of privately financed campaigns for public office undermines democracy in a host of ways, including that it denies citizens equal access to running for office and equal participation in the selection process. We must commit to removing the taint of money’s undue influence from politics. The only way to ensure this is to guarantee full public funding of campaigns once a candidate has qualified to run by raising a certain number of small contributions. Such systems are already in place in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. Democracy ought to be funded in the same way we fund schools, parks and other projects for the public good — from general government revenues.
Any meaningful civil rights platform must stem from a recognition that today’s issues are simply an extension of unaddressed civil rights problems of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. We’ve chipped away at some things, but post-slavery bondage and segregation and the shunting of non-whites to the most menial jobs continue to result in enormous inequities. We have a profound moral obligation to address these problems. We are currently in a time of economic expansion with low unemployment. That means we have a terrific opportunity to examine who is unemployed and what impediments they face. We need to provide job training, education and improvements in housing. There are excellent community and self-help groups in minority communities, but that is not enough. The government needs to step in, first with a guarantee that all children will have truly equal access to education, to small classes and excellent teachers, to preschools and attractive campuses. As the country’s demographics change, it is important for people of all races and cultures to talk in meaningful ways about both their conflicts and their shared goals. We need to address directly America’s oldest sin — its treatment of Native Americans. Finally, we need to recognize that the societal deck is still stacked in favor of white males. Of course, the end goal is to not need affirmative action. But until we live in a world of equal opportunity for all, we must strongly support affirmative action.