Democratic platform is strong on workers’ rights, mixed on trade
By Mark Gruenberg 10 September 2012
|CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Democratic Party’s platform, adopted Sept. 4 by its convention in Charlotte, N.C., sends a strong message for worker rights and a mixed message – from labor’s point of view – on trade, reading the 74-page document shows.
|The platform endorses “fair and free trade.” It also pledges Democrats, and Democratic President Barack Obama, if he is re-elected, to work towards that goal. For labor, fair trade includes enforceable workers’ rights in trade pacts.
But the platform also advocates signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade treaty. The Democrats advocate upholding worker rights in TPP nations, but right now the TPP lacks such rights in its text.
And the platform endorses drafting and signing more trade pacts between the U.S. and unnamed Latin American nations. It also pushes for “permanent normal trade relations” with Russia and letting Russia into the World Trade Organization, though with conditions based on its human rights record.
Predictor of future policies
Campaigners and voters often ignore party platform language. But recent academic studies find platforms are greater-than-expected predictors of actual policies should drafters, Democratic or Republican, win the presidency and Congress.
And the Democratic platform has the added advantage of being at least a road map for objectives of a potential second Obama term. It also criticizes not only the Republicans and their policies for the rich, but GOP nominee Mitt Romney by name.
“Reclaiming the economic security of the middle class is the challenge we must overcome today,” the platform opens. “That begins by restoring the basic values that made our country great, and restoring for everyone who works hard and plays by the rules the opportunity to find a job that pays the bills, turn an idea into a profitable business, care for your family, afford a home you call your own and health care you can count on, retire with dignity and respect, and, most of all, give your children…education that allows them to dream even bigger and go even further than you ever imagined.
“This has to be our North Star – an economy that’s built not from the top down, but from a growing middle class, and that provides ladders of opportunity for those working hard to join the middle class.
“This is not another trivial political argument. It’s the defining issue of our time and at the core of the American Dream. And now we stand at a make-or-break moment and are faced with a choice between moving forward and falling back.
“The Republican Party has turned its back on the middle class Americans who built this country. Our opponents believe we should go back to the top-down economic policies of the last decade. They think that if we simply eliminate protections for families and consumers, let Wall Street write its own rules again, and cut taxes for the wealthiest, the market will solve all our problems on its own.”
Strengthen worker rights
Part of the reconstruction of the middle class depends on strengthening workers’ rights, the platform explicitly says. “When the president took office, the middle class was under assault,” the platform states – including from “an administration that thought the answer was limiting unions.”
Obama “began the work of restoring an economy built to last that creates good jobs that pay well. Because the president and the Democratic Party believe in the right to organize and in supporting America’s workers with strong labor laws, the president rolled back harmful labor policies designed to undermine collective bargaining rights,” the document declares.
“The president appointed members of the National Labor Relations Board and National Mediation Board who understand the importance of standing up for the rights of workers. He placed his bet on the American worker when he rescued the auto industry.” The platform also devotes a section to that – and to GOP opposition to it.
“His administration will continue its fight against the exploitative practice of employers fraudulently misclassifying workers as independent contractors or white-collar workers to evade taxes or deny them protections and overtime benefits,” the platform promises. “As new employment relationships evolve away from the traditional employee-employer model, we need to make sure our labor laws are modernized and keep pace with changes in our economy,” the platform declares.
It was not specific about what those labor law changes would include, however. Then the labor plank returns to blasting the GOP.
“The Republican Party would return us to the failed policies of the last administration, vilifying the American worker, undermining unions, and arguing that everyone should fend for themselves. We oppose the attacks on collective bargaining Republican governors and state legislatures are mounting in states around the country.
“Democrats believe the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value: Every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union. Unions helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known.”
Open new markets
The platform’s language on “free and fair” trade is another matter.
The Democrats declare Obama took “steps to open new markets to American products, while ensuring that other countries play by the same rules,” including writing labor rights into the Colombian free trade pact. That pact actually has labor rights in an annex. And signing and implementing the U.S.-Colombia FTA took away U.S. leverage against Colombia for pursuit and prosecution of the murderers of thousands of unionists by Right Wing death squads there over the last two decades.
“We remain committed to finding more markets for American-made goods – including using the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the United States and eight countries in the Asia-Pacific…while ensuring workers’ rights and environmental standards are upheld, and fighting against unfair trade practices,” the Dems pledge.
They then point out the party “expanded and reformed assistance for trade-affected workers, and demanded renewal of that help alongside new trade agreements.
Other key platform sections include:
• Endorsement of a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that says corporations – and unions – have the same rights to influence political campaigns through unlimited spending as individuals do. The Communications Workers are leading labor’s drive for the amendment. Citizens United unleashed a tsunami of corporate and individual campaign cash for the GOP.
“Mitt Romney’s opposition to common-sense campaign finance is nothing less than support for corporate and special-interest takeovers in our elections,” the platform adds. “We believe America prospers when everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street, does their fair share and plays by the same rules.”
• “All parents and caregivers – regardless of gender – need more flexibility and support in the workplace. We support passing the Healthy Families Act, broadening the Family and Medical Leave Act, and partnering with states to move toward paid leave,” the platform adds. After touting Head Start expansion and reform, the Democrats pledge to support the “foster care system, adoption programs for all caring parents, grandparents, and caregivers, and protecting children from violence and neglect. Caring for family members and managing a household is real and valuable work.”
• It declares Democrats “are committed to ending racial, ethnic, and religious profiling and requiring federal, state, and local enforcement agencies to take steps to eliminate the practice.” It then adds the party is “committed to equal opportunity for all Americans and to making sure that every American is treated equally under the law.”
That includes a ban on discrimination on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people and “full equality for women” by passing the Equal Rights Amendment – which the GOP-led Right stalled three decades ago.
It also includes enforcing Title IX of federal discrimination law, which outlaws discrimination based on sex, and passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act to put teeth into equal pay for equal work laws.
Mark Gruenberg writes for Press Associates, Inc., news service. Used by permission.
For more information
View the entire platform on the Democratic Party website.