By reforms for workers, I am considering workers in the widest possible sense of the term. In that sense we are nearly all workers since at some point in our lives we only receive our income by working. If you perform work you are a worker. If, on the other hand, you receive income only because of what you own and have never worked for income then you are not a worker. Very few Americans fall into this latter category except for the super-rich. Currently we allow those few non-workers to rule over the rest of us who do the actual work that sustains our economy. Those oligarchs who rule over us do so largely by dividing us and pitting each of us against the others. This is done along many axes: immigrants against domestics; black against white; men against women; rich against poor, latino against non-latino, young against old, gay against straight, devout against atheist: we are all pitted one against another to draw attention away from our real problems of oligarchical dominance.

My plan to address the long-neglected needs of workers includes several policy points:

  1. Guarantees for collective bargaining, requiring all interstate corporations with greater than 10 employees to either: 1) guarantee republican governance for all of their workers under a workers collective corporate charter; or otherwise 2) adhere to collective bargaining with workers and refrain from any interference in the democrat selection of the workers’ collective bargaining representatives and other collective bargaining unit governance. As long as we have the same adversarial systems in the form of an employer/employee relationship we must provide the same guarantees of representation we guarantee to accused criminals in the similarly adversarially inspired criminal justice system. If accused criminals are entitled to representation than so too must workers be entitled to collective bargaining representation;
  2. Begin to shorten the work-week: Update Federal Fair Labor Standards Act to allow workers to reclaim some of their productivity gains by reducing the time-and-one-half overtime threshold to 34 hours (instead of 40 hours) and expanding it to include all wage and salaried workers except for officers and directors;
  3. Increase the minimum wage and make it indexed for inflation: higher minimum wages not only helps ensure a decent income for the poorest among us, but also places greater income and therefore greater effective demand in the hands of those who need it most and will use it most. Such increased effective demand means greater income for all workers and helps promote full employment. It also begins to reverse the past Federal policies to redistribute income from the poorest among us to the super-rich and therefore begins to address the crushing debt issues we face in the US;
  4. Reinvigorate full employment policies already on the books: The Federal government has long made commitments to maintain full employment and has also long failed to meet those commitments. Full employment helps minimize the waste of our human resources while simultaneously reversing the steady decline in real wages and salaries which has fueled our out of control debt situation: both personal debt and government debt..
  5. Four (4) weeks paid vacation for all workers employed by employers of 50 or more employees
  6. One year family leave for all workers employed by employers of 50 or more employees
  7. A specialized corporate form for worker cooperatives: Establish a new corporate charter for worker cooperative corporations. Such corporations, to enjoy the privilege of limited liability, would be required to guarantee a republican form of corporate governance to their workers by having only workers serve on the corporation’s board of directors. Workers serving on the board of directors could be granted temporary leave from their work for as much as four consecutive years to dedicate more time to the corporation’s governance. Workers could be selected either by open and fair election, through a fair lottery system, or through direct participation of all workers as specified by the corporation’s bylaws. No one other than workers may serve on the corporations board of directors. Workers would be required to be employed for at least a year before serving on the board of directors, except in the case of newly formed corporations. I also support a 20 year tax waiver for corporate income taxes for such corporations and a substantial income tax credit for all employees of such corporations as a way to encourage the proliferation of such workers collectives.
  8. A new Bureau of Worker Cooperatives: This new office within the Department of Labor will provide educational and resource support for Worker Cooperative Commune Corporations of various kinds, though principally: 1) Assistance with establishing democratic and republican forms of governance within an enterprise; 2) education and assistance in entrepreneurial skills such as a reading knowledge of accounting and other enterprise reports, financial literacy, marketing literacy, and so forth; 3) open source software support systems to support democratic decision-making and make reporting and disclosure which is transparent to the entire enterprise workforce. These skills are essential for establishing a cooperative enterprise where every worker can contribute to the democratic governance of the enterprise, regardless of their specialized occupation within the enterprise. Such a cooperative enterprise might have dedicated marketing workers, but every worker in a democratic enterprise requires sufficient knowledge in marketing to respond to the issues presented to the enterprise workforce: similarly for governance issues, financial issues, and reporting.

These reforms for workers have many implications. First they will end the slow erosion in wages and salaries that has strangely accompanied unprecedented gains in productivity. Such an erosion in incomes for workers has also fueled the growing debt crisis where wealth is consolidated to such an extent that all the super-rich can do with their wealth is loan it back to workers and the Federal government. Without workers taking on this enormous debt they would be unable to purchase all that they produce and the economy would further slip into depression. I believe that the ability of workers to purchase what they produce should not routinely depend upon debt. Debt should be reserved for only particular circumstances. Certainly workers will need to borrow from time to time, but the current redistribution of wealth from workers to the super-rich requires an unprecedented level of debt and a continuous state of debt simply to allow the economy to continue at its current pace.

Eventually I believe our ultimate goal should be to severely curtail exploitation in our commercial workplaces and encourage more decentralized modes of production while embracing the unprecedented worker cooperation facilitated by modern technology. I think we can achieve these goals through tax policy and other legislation.