Leadership of some of the most influential unions praised Democratic leaders Monday for unveiling a new worker-focused economic agenda.
President Donald Trump has made working class issues a focus since launching his campaign. He was able to win rural districts that have traditionally had strong liberal and union influences. His populist economic message resonated with the working class who felt like they had been forgotten.
Democrats are now refocusing their agenda back towards those workers and their families. The new approach will primarily look to improve what jobs are available, increase wages, and ensure workers have the skills they need going into the future. Union leaders were quick to applaud the new approach.
“I applaud Democrats’ commitment to building an economy that rewards working people and not just the wealthy and well-connected,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement. “Substantial investment in infrastructure, paid family leave and a higher minimum wage are all important policy goals.”
Workers have experienced flat wage growth and decreased opportunities over recent years. Workers are also increasingly seeing their skills becoming obsolete in the face of emerging technologies. The president argued when launching his campaign that the government has failed both workers and employers.
Trump had a particular interest in protecting domestic workers from unfair foreign competition. He has looked towards trade and immigration as pathways to address the problem. Democrats echoed that concern in their new agenda by promising to aggressively crackdown on unfair foreign trade and outsourcing.
”The Senate Dems come out with solid economic program for Americans,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said on social media.
Democrats will continue to pursue several progressive policies that make their new agenda distinct from what Republicans are doing. The new agenda reaffirms support for raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. It will also aim to protect entitlements like Medicare.
“The best way to accomplish these goals is to promote the freedom of Americans to join a union and negotiate a fair return on our work,” Saunders said. “Unions provide the power in numbers that make better jobs, better wages and a better future possible. We encourage all lawmakers to make freedom to join a union a centerpiece of any economic agenda going forward.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders and other leading progressive lawmakers introduced a bill May 25 aimed at increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Sanders originally introduced the proposal in July 2015. The policy eventually gained enough support during the election to be included in the Democratic Party platform.
The National Nurses United (NNU) expressed some dissatisfaction with the new agenda. The union hopes the party will go further and include additional items like free Medicare for all and free college tuition. NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro noted online that the union will deliver 100,000 petitions to Democratic leaders Tuesday.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said online that Senate Democrats understand what working families need. The union further expressed its support by linking to an opinion piece from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pushing the new agenda.