Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) extensive labor plan to raise wages and strengthen the rights of workers is making waves with groups representing business, which are growing increasingly nervous about her candidacy as she rises in the polls.
Warren’s plan, unveiled Thursday, echoes arguments she’s long made as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate: Workers’ wages have “largely stagnated” while corporate profits and worker productivity has risen, it states.
Her proposals to help workers include provisions long opposed by powerful business groups.
“It’s not an understatement to say that Elizabeth Warren’s plan could eradicate the franchise business model and put 733,000 small business owners out of existence,” Matt Haller, the International Franchise Association senior vice president of government relations and public affairs, told The Hill.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called her plan unconstitutional, echoing the rhetoric used to take aim at her proposed tax on corporations and organizations that spend more than $500,000 lobbying the federal government.
“Recycling failed policies of the past is not a winning formula for the future. In fact it’s undemocratic, unconstitutional and bad for American workers,” Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley told The Hill in a statement Thursday.
One element in Warren’s plan is a call for legislation on “card check” rules, which would make it easier for unions to organize workers by allowing a union to be certified if a majority of employees sign union cards or otherwise offer support. The Obama administration attempted to pass a card check bill when Democrats held the House and Senate during the first two years of that presidency, but it couldn’t get enough votes in the Senate.
Representatives of business groups argue card-check won’t play well in purple states and could hurt a Democratic presidential candidate.
“I don’t think this would play very well in swing states like Iowa, Florida, North Carolina or Wisconsin,” Haller said.
Communications Workers of America (CWA), the communications and media labor union, told The Hill that they fully support Warren’s plan, saying it will be positive for working families.
“Senator Warren’s plan doesn’t just cover up the problems with our current system with a fresh paint job. This is a full-scale renovation, one that will strengthen our democracy and transform the lives of America’s working families,” Shane Larson, CWA’s senior director for government affairs and policy said in a statement on Friday.
There’s no guarantee all of the proposals included in Warren’s plan would be enacted if she wins the presidency.
A number of the proposals could be enacted through action at the Labor Department, but many would require action by Congress. Democrats would have to net three seats to win the Senate majority.
Pushing changes through the National Labor Relations Board is also no guarantee. The board seats members for five-year terms, meaning a Democratic president would initially have some Trump nominees.
Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry voiced her support for the plan on Twitter on Thursday.
“Glad to see @ewarren plan’s to overhaul America’s broken labor laws, empower workers to organize millions at a time, allow innovation in cities & states, and use public $ to support good, union jobs. #UnionsforAll,” she tweeted.
Another labor group noted that Warren’s strategy to support new apprenticeships caught their eye as a positive proposal.
She would direct the Labor Department to set aside funding for apprenticeships on construction projects and partner with labor organizations to establish new training requirements, among other things.
But the Association of Equipment Manufacturers was troubled by the lack of workforce development ideas and efforts to close the skills gap in her proposal.
“Any candidate that’s running for president … I think it’s going to be absolutely critical for any of them to articulate and communicate an actual plan on how they would work with industry on how to get more young people interested in and incentivized to pursue career in the trades,” Kip Eideberg, senior vice president of government and industry relations, told The Hill.
He added, “we cannot find enough people to take on these jobs because there are not enough people who have the training necessary to become a machinist or a welder.”
Another element of her plan calls for passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would require “employers and unions to enter binding arbitration to secure a collective bargaining agreement within 120 days of negotiations,” according to her proposal.
It’s intended to address cases when employers refuse to bargain or delay negotiations. The bill in the Senate, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), has 40 Democratic co-sponsors. It would also repeal right-to-work laws, which 27 states have adopted to allow people to work in unionized workplaces without joining the union.
The Chamber said the bill has “many pernicious provisions” when it was introduced in the House in May.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will continue to stand against failed policies, and will continue to work for labor laws that strengthen our economy and our workforce,” Bradley said on Thursday.
David French, senior vice president for government relations for the National Retail Federation, didn’t think Warren’s plan empowered workers, but instead put control into the hands of labor unions.
“I think you have to be fairly clear-eyed that just because a labor union represents workers does not mean that workers’ rights are being enhanced,” he said.