Campaigns

Bernie Sanders labor plan would let federal workers strike

Presidential contender unveils plan ahead of Iowa AFL-CIO trip

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has unveiled a labor policy plan ahead of a visit to the Iowa AFL-CIO. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a new labor plan Wednesday that includes a proposal to let federal employees go on strike.

“Under current law, federal employees are not guaranteed the same labor rights as workers in the private sector. While they have the ability to unionize, they are prohibited from going on strike,” a plan summary said. “Under this plan, federal workers would have the right to strike.”

The campaign of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful noted that the recent partial shutdown led to many federal employees being required to report for work despite not being paid.

“In December, Trump shut down the federal government for 35 days — the longest in history — depriving over 800,000 workers of their paychecks. Adding insult to injury, hundreds of thousands of TSA agents, air traffic controllers, IRS employees, members of the Coast Guard, and other federal government employees were forced to work without pay and without recourse,” the campaign said.

It was not immediately clear how much the plan to allow federal employees to strike would apply to the legislative branch or what kind of national security exemptions might exist.

Sanders’ release of the labor proposal, which included more than just the federal worker provisions, came before the independent Vermont senator visits the Iowa AFL-CIO convention.

His proposal would codify some long-standing Democratic policy priorities, including making it easier for workers to unionize through what’s often called “card check”: Once a majority of eligible employees sign a card indicating support for a union, it could be recognized by the National Labor Relations Board.

“Corporate America and the billionaire class have been waging a 40-year war against the trade union movement in America that has caused devastating harm to the middle class in terms of lower wages, fewer benefits and frozen pensions,” Sanders said in a statement. “That war will come to an end when I am president. If we are serious about rebuilding the middle class in America, we have got to rebuild, strengthen and expand the trade union movement in America.”

The Sanders proposals also would impose a requirement on corporate mergers and acquisitions that existing union contracts be maintained after consolidation. Sanders is also pitching new protections for private sector pensions, in line with a long-standing legislative proposal of his.

“President Sanders will fight to implement the Keep Our Pension Promises Act he first introduced in 2015 to prevent the pensions of up to 10 million Americans from being cut. Instead of asking retirees to take a massive cut in their pension benefits, Bernie will make multi-employer plans solvent by closing egregious loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans in this country to avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” said a summary of the Sanders plan.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.