Editor’s Note: The IBEW is reporting from the political conventions. Keep reading over the next few days for our on-the-ground perspective in Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia, labor unions and working people are front and center at the Democratic National Convention.
From the convention center and its elaborate set – built by union labor – to the speakers at the podium and the opening pages of the party’s platform, working families, the economy and basic fairness will be the overarching theme of the Democrats’ week-long message.
Twenty-five IBEW members are serving as official delegates or alternates to the convention, and dozens more have been hard at work behind the scenes readying the arena and other facilities for the influx of tens of thousands of delegates, party officials, supporters and journalists from all over the world.
And on its opening night, July 25, half a dozen labor leaders addressed the convention, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey.
The party’s platform, which was adopted on the first night of the gathering, most clearly reflects Democrats’ focus on working people. Its 51 pages celebrate the more than 14.8 million jobs created since early 2010 under President Obama’s watch, but also recognize the great deal of work left to do to recover from the Great Recession that marred the end of the George W. Bush administration.
In the statement of principles, party leaders note that wages have not kept up with inflated corporate profits, and that income inequality has only become more pronounced as a result of the gridlock that has plagued Congress. The solution, according to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, is to make it easier for people to form unions, to raise the minimum wage and to ensure that collective bargaining and fair arbitration of disputes are fundamental rights.
“The Democratic Party believes that when workers are strong, America is strong,” the document reads, calling for national card-check legislation and “laws that bring companies to the negotiating table.” That could be especially useful for workers at Donald Trump’s Las Vegas Trump International Hotel, where the Republican nominee has refused for months to bargain with employees who joined a union in April.
In addition, the Democratic platform opposes right-to-work and calls for party leaders to “continue to vigorously oppose those laws and other efforts that would eliminate dues check-off procedures, roll back prevailing wage standards, abolish fair share requirements, restrict the use of voluntary membership payments for political purposes, attack seniority, restrict due process protections and require annual recertification efforts.”
“We’re really pleased that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party have chosen to put working people at the center of this week’s proceedings,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “This platform doesn’t address every single one of our issues, but the contrast with the Republicans is night and day. One puts the priority directly on restoring fairness to the American economy, while the other seeks to strip away workers’ rights, prevailing wage and all sorts of other protections we’ve had for many decades.”
Some of the most important of those protections are focused squarely on retirement security. Where Trump has called Social Security “a Ponzi scheme” and recommended privatizing it and increasing the retirement age, the Democratic platform proposes protecting those benefits by strengthening the current system. In their platform, Republicans call for rolling back key government protections for private pensions like those in place at the IBEW. Democrats want to close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires in order to preserve the private pension safeguards that guarantee retirements for working people who have earned them.
Speakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Barack Obama are expected to hammer home those and more working people’s issues over the convention’s four nights.
“We hope our members pay close attention to what’s happening in this campaign,” Stephenson said, “and we’re confident that when they get a closer look, they’ll vote for their own economic interests.”
Photo Credit: Photo used under a Creative Commons License courtesy of Disney|ABC Television Group (Flickr)