The Worker's Right of First Refusal
Unions are great, and I'll get to the ways I would like strengthen them, but we can do one better with The Worker's Right of First Refusal. This a reform proposed by Jeremy Corbin of the Labor Party in the UK; and talked about extensively by Richard Wolff, and ivy league educated Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts. This is how it works: Whenever a private company decides to go public (like has happened recently with a lot of social media companies), a public company wants to perform a merger (like has been happening with a TON of media companies lately), or a company wants to invert (moving its headquarters out of the US) the workers must first be given the option to perform a government financed buy out of the company, and transform it into a worker cooperative. This would also apply to the case of corporate inversions, and for factory outsourcing. Worker cooperatives are worker run, democratic work places with a board of directors (or similar management structure) that is democratically selected and decided upon by the workers, not by stockholders. The workers of a company choose what to produce, how much to produce, how to produce, how much to pay, and every other business decision. In the world of worker co-ops, you would never see multi-million dollar executive pay. Workers could choose to work shorter days for the same overall pay when innovations in productivity occur. There are already many worker co-ops in the US but the most prominent example is the Mandragon cooperative in Italy which employs over 800,000 workers and even has its own bank. In order to finance this, first the state needs to open a public bank, so it is a ways down the road with the path we are on. The money loaned to the workers will be paid off over time using profits from the cooperative. The investment capital can be financed through the general funds of the state bank, or it can be raised on a case by case basis through workers moving their private savings to a public bank. In the second case, the workers private savings would have to amount to 10% the total value of the company in question in order for a loan to be made.
Card check is system to protect workers from from being prevented from forming unions. Through the National Labor Relation Board, workers submit paperwork to a government body stating that they want to form a union. Once over 50% of the workers of any company do so, the union is then recognized by the state and the work place will be officially unionized. This prevents workplaces from knowing that workers intend to unionize, and firing workers who do so. Effectively making it much harder to union bust. The process of submitting paperwork to the National Labor Relations Board is protected from the company of which the workers are attempting to unionize.
Right to Work
This is a law which allows workers of a company the right to not participate in or pay dues to a unionized work place. This is another practice intended to make it easier for employers to union bust. By not requiring workers to join unions, they enjoy all the perks that union has fought for, without having to participate. In our global race to the bottom, wages have been completely disconnected to productivity. Without strong unions, wages will continue to stagnate and worker safety will be further eroded.
Everyone has the right to make a living, and this country has plenty of work to be done. After the massive exodus from the workplace following the Great Recession, we are still to recover. We need investment in solar farms, wind farms, municipal broadband, water reclamation work, infrastructure construction, public housing, public transit, public defenders, drug rehab centers, and on and on. If you want to work and making a living wage while also serving the public good, the government can and should find a job for you. We are falling behind countries like China that are innovating massive public transit projects and solar energy projects. They were forced to do this out of necessity, and we cannot wait until we have no choice as they have. We cannot build this country for the 21st century through privatization.