Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg released his new economic policy Friday morning, aimed at protecting workers and putting big tech companies firmly in the hot seat.
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, titled his plan “The New Rising Tide: Empowering Workers in a Changing Economy,” a reference to the economic saying “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
“We got the rising tide – GDP went up, productivity went up – but our paychecks didn’t show it,” Buttigieg writes in the proposal.
The plan calls out companies like Google, Lyft and Uber for outsourcing their employees and labeling them contractors, limiting benefits workers can receive from the companies. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Buttigieg said he is willing to go up against big tech.
“I think they need to recognize the consequences if we continue moving into an economic reality where workers are eviscerated,” Buttigieg told CNN. “I have nothing against these companies succeeding when workers are doing well, but they can’t have it both ways.”
In details of the plan, Buttigieg would guarantee the right to join a union for all American workers including gig economy workers – like Uber and Lyft drivers who are considered independent contractors and not employees of the companies. Buttigieg would support codifying the “ABC test,” a more strict definition of independent contractor that would label many more workers as employees.
His plan also calls for a strong “joint employer standard,” which would allow workers to collectively bargain with the companies that control their hours and working conditions rather than the company that contracts them out.
“Companies like Google should not be able to hire contractors – from janitors and food service workers to managers and software engineers – that look like employees, but who cannot bargain with Google because they technically work for a staffing firm or other intermediaries,” the plan states.
Labor unions are front and center in the plan which would “introduce multimillion dollar penalties for employer interference in union elections and workers’ rights” and “gives working people the right to demand access to multi-employer bargaining.” For example, workers at three unionized retail stores could decide collectively to bring their three employers to one bargaining table and negotiate one pay package for all three retail stores. This model still exists in America’s construction trades, but has waned in recent decades, and remains much more common in Europe.
President Donald Trump has garnered support from labor unions – especially in Midwestern states where steel and coal unions still have power, many of which helped him get elected. Buttigieg said this part of his economic plan is aimed at bringing back union support to the Democratic Party and to his campaign.
“It’s part of it,” he told CNN. “I want workers to understand how their lives are better, how they will be better off with me or compared to this President, or our competitors and folks need to hear how this is going to impact their lives.”
The plan also calls for legislation that would immediately make public pay gaps at every large company – citing that women make 80% of what men get paid. Buttigieg would also set up a national paid sick leave system for workers who do not get at least seven paid sick days.
“Employers would be required to pay in the equivalent of one hour of pay for every 30 hours they work, up to a total of 56 hours, into a state fund that these workers could draw from,” the plan states.
While this plan is one of the most comprehensive labor policies released by one of the current Democratic candidates to date, much of it is embodied in bills that progressive Democratic lawmakers have been introducing in Congress. With no congressional record, Buttigieg is able to voice his support for these policies while other candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have been advocating for similar platforms for years.
Buttigieg renewed his call for a federal minimum wage in the plan of $15 an hour, taking it a step further by indexing “the federal minimum wage to median wage growth so that moving forward, both workers and employers know with certainty what it will be in the years to come.” A similar minimum wage bill, the Raise Wage Act, passed in the House of Representatives last week.
CNN’s Lydia DePillis contributed to this report.