This weekend, I’m looking forward to returning to Iowa to celebrate Labor Day. This is a time when we not only mark the progress made by generations of our union brothers and sisters, but we commit anew to fight for the future of work in America.
Across our country, politicians from state houses all the way to the White House are waging an anti-worker campaign on a scale we’ve never seen before.
Two years ago in Iowa, those politicians took a wrecking ball to over 40 years of bipartisan collective bargaining rights, stripping from public workers the right to negotiate health insurance, work conditions, and more. And in Washington, we have a president who ran on the promise to protect American jobs, but instead has used his office to undermine those very workers he vowed to protect.
Across the country, union membership is at historic lows while giant corporations replace an entire generation of workers with independent contractors. And while wages haven’t grown in real terms in nearly 40 years, giant companies like Amazon pay less in taxes than most working Americans.
To restore dignity to a hard day’s work, we must create a government that works for working Americans.
This is a fight that has defined my career. I started out as a union-side labor lawyer, representing the Teamsters, IBEW, and teachers. I remember coming home and telling my kids about the workers I represented who were fighting for justice.
With union membership in Iowa less than half of what it was 30 years ago, it’s no secret that a heck of a lot of folks are being shortchanged.
It didn’t get this way by accident.
After pouring tens of millions of dollars into our elections, the Koch Brothers of the world have undercut state and federal labor laws to benefit their bottom line. As a result, the wealthy and well-connected are doing just fine, while working Americans get stiffed at every turn.
I’m running for president because I believe in the power of public service to make government work again. That begins by eliminating the single greatest threat to working Americans: the corrupting influence of Big Money in our politics.
By damming the flood of hidden dollars, we’ll end the corporate assault on unions and begin the work of restoring bargaining rights and empowering unions.
I’ll work with Congress to update labor laws to reflect the 21st century economy: raising the minimum wage, passing paid family leave, and expanding overtime pay eligibility.
With workers transitioning jobs more than ever, we’ll make a major investment in training people for the in-demand, skilled jobs of the 21st Century. We’ll also make benefits portable from job-to-job and push for universal sectoral standards to ensure workers can’t be bilked of pay, benefits, and job security.
We’ll prioritize federal contracting to companies with a proven history of treating their workers with dignity, and strengthen fines against federal contractors who subdue efforts to unionize.
And Congress must step up to provide a lifeline to multi-employer pensions, so that workers preparing for retirement won’t have the rug pulled from beneath their feet.
If Democrats don’t lead with action to earn the union vote, we’re just setting ourselves up for four more years of a president who puts CEOs over the workers who power our country.
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Our next president must ensure that every American has a fair shot at success, no matter where they live or who they vote for. That is the promise I make on the campaign trail — and one that I will not let down as president.
• Steve Bullock is governor of Montana and a Democratic candidate for president.