21st Century Workers Bill of Rights

21st Century Workers Bill of Rights

Background

Over the past 50 years economic gains have been increasingly concentrated at the very top. We have witnessed the birth of a new breed of ultra-wealthy CEOs and Wall Street investors, but about half of all Americans have seen their income remain flat or even decline. Since the 1980s, almost all income gains have been captured by the rich.

The rules of the economy are so slanted in favor of the wealthy that even during a supposed economic boom, middle class and working-class families are not sharing in the prosperity.

We need to re-write the rules of our economy so that our economy works for workers, and not just because of them.

Bill de Blasio is proposing a fundamentally new vision for the economy that ensures workers receive the rewards of their labor and that gives workers power to ensure that they are treated fairly, their rights are respected, and that they can impact and make decisions about their own working conditions.

Just Cause for Termination: The Real Right to Work

A real “right to work” should mean the right to keep your job as long as you do your job.

The vast majority of employees in America are “at will” employees. They can be fired at any time and for almost any reason. In most states workers can still be fired just for being openly gay or lesbian. Workers can be fired if their boss is simply in a bad mood that day. Workers can be fired for their political views or just for the way they dress. And workers can be fired illegally based on racial discrimination or sexual harassment — or for union organizing — and must then pursue costly, stressful, time consuming litigation without any guarantee of prevailing in court.

Bill de Blasio’s “Just Cause” policy would replace “at will” employment with a just cause system that protects workers from unfair terminations. It would require that employers can only fire workers for failure to properly do their job and only after appropriate warning or due process.

Balancing Work, Life and Family: The Right to Paid Time Off

Americans are among the hardest working people on the planet. Far too many must work two or even three jobs just to provide for their families and far too many lack basic protections to ensure they can balance the ever-increasing demands of work with their commitment to their children and families.

As President, Bill de Blasio would propose sweeping new protections to help Americans balance family and work:

Universal Labor Standards: The Right to Protection for All Workers

As the “gig economy” grows, workers are increasingly taking on non-traditional jobs in the “digital marketplace”, such as ride sharing or cleaning services. These services offer a convenient tool for consumers and should mean flexibility for workers. But without basic protections and benefits that more traditional employment arrangements typically provide, too many of these jobs are a bad deal for workers.

Bill de Blasio’s proposal would ensure, for those working in gig jobs, that: 1) when workers are truly employees, they’re properly treated that way under law, and 2) even when gig workers are freelancing, they are still entitled to the same basic minimum standards as traditional employees. This will ensure that workers can grow along with the gig economy and not just fuel its profits while they themselves are left behind.

Under de Blasio’s plan gig workers who truly are freelancers or independent contractors (and not “employees” under key labor laws) would still be entitled to a minimum pay rate no lower than the minimum wage employees get, to make sure they can get paid when businesses stiff them, and other basic protections, including workers compensation and unemployment insurance. Those workers would also be allowed to organize and negotiate collectively when they work for the same or related businesses. Falsely claiming that workers are independent contractors in order to skirt worker protections will be a thing of the past. This practice would be illegal and punished severely. It would also become economically irrelevant since all workers must have the same basic minimum standards and protections.

Bill de Blasio’s proposal of Universal Labor Standards and Protections for All would restore the promise of social security – the original portable benefit – by ensuring all workers have access to key benefits that are pro-rated and universal, and stay with workers when they move among different employers. First and foremost, this proposal would ensure all workers have access to adequate retirement and health care coverage, requiring digital employment platforms to contribute to portable workers’ benefit funds. Additionally, de Blasio’s plan would amend the tax code so that those who are self-employed can take advantage of benefits employers can offer employees, such as transit benefits, and flexible spending for health care and childcare.

Family First Scheduling: The Right to Stability

Working families need stability in their lives. Too many workers don’t know when and how much they will work from week to week — or even day to day — and face constant changes in their schedules at the whim of their manager, creating stress and instability for families.

That will change under Bill de Blasio’s Family First Scheduling policy.

Living Wages for All: The Right to Fair Pay

Raise the minimum wage to $15 and index to median worker pay

It’s been 10 years since the minimum wage has been increased — the longest period without an increase since the minimum wage was created over 80 years ago. In addition, it’s time to phase out the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and create one fair wage for all.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will benefit 40 million workers and generate $120 billion in income for working families.

Raise the Overtime Salary Threshold

Bill de Blasio will ensure salaried workers who still don’t earn a real livable wage are paid time and a half when they work overtime. Anyone making less than $50,000 a year should automatically receive time and a half pay for more than 40 hours of work per week.

Equal Pay

To eliminate pay disparities rooted in gender bias, de Blasio will call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. This legislation would require employers to report annual compensation data and prohibit asking prospective employees about salary history to ensure that pay equity is a mandated right in all workplaces across America.

Making the Department of Labor Work for Workers

Wage theft costs workers $15 billion per year according to recent estimates — money that employers are literally taking from workers. Yet under the Trump administration, the Department of Labor has dramatically scaled back enforcement of wage and hour complaints such as violations of the minimum wage, overtime, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Workers need to know that the Department of Labor is on their side and will aggressively enforce violations of their rights. As President Bill de Blasio will dramatically strengthen the Department of Labor’s ability to protect workers.

Restoring Workers’ Collective Power: The Right to a Voice on the Job

For 40 years, corporate America has done all it can to make it nearly impossible for workers in this country to organize and assert their collective voice, by directly attacking workers and unions in the private sector and undermining key protections for public sector workers through politics and the Courts.

For the last several years, workers all over the country, from teachers and journalists, to airport and fast food workers have been saying “enough is enough” and taking risks to rebalance the scales. Workers demand change from their employers to benefit their families and their communities, calling for increased funding for education, racial justice, and other common goods.

It’s time for the law to catch up to what these workers are demanding: a voice. For the last several decades, key initiatives to fix the law have stalled. Bill de Blasio’s plan to Restore Workers’ Collective Power takes some of the strongest ideas from those efforts, including the Workplace Democracy Act, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, and then goes the extra mile to truly restore worker voice. The plan has several key prongs.

Make it easier to join a union

Union members earn more money, have better benefits, and more job security than non-union members doing the same work. Nearly half of all non-union members say they would like to be in a union if they could. Strong unions are absolutely essential to a strong middle class — yet employers use every tool at their disposal — including routinely breaking the law — to prevent their workers from unionizing.

Workers need the freedom to join unions without interference and intimidation from their employer. That’s why de Blasio supports sweeping changes to make it easier for workers to organize for better pay and benefits:

Ensure the Right to Organize and Bargain for Public Sector Workers; Require the Same of Federal Contractors

Bill de Blasio would ensure key protections for public sector workers by:

Restore worker and union power

Workers need to have the freedom to join unions — and unions need to have the ability to represent workers effectively. Current laws not only make it hard for workers to join unions, they also restrict the ability of unions to effectively fight for their members. If we want a strong middle class we must enable strong unions.

Abolish anti-worker laws and practices

Corporate CEOs and their allies in the Republican Party have successfully pushed for laws and embraced systems designed to deny workers a voice and restrict their rights to win better pay and benefits for their families. It’s time to end policies that deprive workers of their rights and their voice.

Making bold ideas a reality: The NYC Experience

Mayor de Blasio has proven that big ideas for addressing inequality and standing up for working people can actually become a reality.

As Mayor of New York City, he has overseen the successful adoption, expansion and implementation of critical new protections for all workers similar to many of the proposals in his 21st Century Workers Bill of Rights, including:

These critical new standards have been enforced by NYC’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards, the largest municipal labor standards office in the country, which has modeled enforcement practices with its proactive investigations, strong anti-retaliation practices, and focus on protecting the most vulnerable workers, including immigrants.

And, while the right to organize is generally a federal matter, De Blasio has been clear from day one as Mayor about his commitment to workers’ collective bargaining rights, keeping close to 100% of NYC’s workforce under up-to-date, strong contracts, and ensuring a productive and constructive relationship between the city and its workers and unions.

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