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December 2018

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Agenda for Change

America went to the polls in record numbers last month in one of the most historic midterm elections of recent times. Power in the House of Representatives changed for the first time in eight years, while governors' seats flipped in seven states. And voters in Arkansas and Missouri approved big minimum wage increases, while voters in three other states approved Medicaid expansion. It is clear that looking beyond partisan rancor, voters above all else want to see our elected officials focus on putting the government back on the side of working families.

For eight long years, in our state capitals and in Congress, the priorities of the top 1 percent and big corporations too often came first when it came to policy-making. And we have seen the results: growing income inequality, stagnant wages and too many jobs that just don't pay the bills.

This is a historic opportunity to rebuild an economy, where, in the words of President John Kennedy, "a rising tide lifts all boats," an economy, in other words, that works for everybody, not just the very rich.

So what now?

Here are some ideas on what our newly elected officials can do to help make that happen:

Promote worker freedom. The fundamental freedom of workers to come together in a labor union has been under attacks for decades now, but the assault picked up steam in the last eight years — especially on the state level. It is vital that right-to-work laws and all other restrictions placed on workers' rights are overturned, and labor law is not only respected but expanded at all levels, because stronger unions translate into higher wages and better benefits, two things our economy desperately needs.

Prevailing wage. Prevailing wage laws maintain a fair wage for local workers and should be protected on the state and federal levels.

Training for today's jobs. America faces a skilled worker shortage, especially in construction and the utility industry. Elected officials should work with business and labor to promote more opportunities in the skilled trades for young people.

Infrastructure investment. In many places, our roads, schools, bridges and electrical infrastructure have suffered years of neglect and are in dangerous states of disrepair. We need a bold investment plan to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century, which would also create tens of thousands of good jobs.

End gerrymandering. Gerrymandering — drawing electoral districts to maximize one party's political advantage — is bad for democracy and working people. We need a nonpartisan approach to redistricting that is fair to all voters.

Protect and expand Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are absolutely vital to the health and well-being of working America and should be expanded, not cut.

The IBEW is ready and willing to work with leaders from both parties, from the White House on down, to make this agenda a reality. America faces many challenges, but if our leaders put working people first, we can put this country back on the right track.


Also: Stephenson: On the Front Lines Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer