The presidential election campaign kicked into full gear in late August as the political parties jumped into convention mode. Now’s the time to consider the employment related prescriptions offered by nominees Barack Obama (D) and John McCain (R). Here’s a quick look at the candidates’ platforms on workplace issues. No spin—we’ll leave that to the pundits. Just some details gleaned from the economic plans outlined on the candidates’ official websites:
Barack Obama, Democrat. Obama will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions. He will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Obama will ensure that his labor appointees support workers’ rights and will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Obama will also increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation to ensure it rises every year.
Obama believes that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Obama has fought the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) efforts to strip workers of their right to organize. He is a cosponsor of legislation to overturn the NLRB’s “Kentucky River” decisions classifying hundreds of thousands of nurses, construction and professional workers as “supervisors” who are not protected by federal labor laws.
Obama supports the right of workers to bargain collectively and strike if necessary. He will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods. Barack Obama will raise the minimum wage, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs.
Obama will expand the Family and Medical Leave Act...and encourage flexible work schedules. As president, Obama will initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave systems. Obama will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers.
Workers with family obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Obama will enforce the recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination. Obama will create a program to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting. Obama will also make the federal government a model employer in terms of adopting flexible work schedules and permitting employees to request flexible arrangements.
John McCain, Republican. John McCain understands that today’s changing economy is making it harder for parents to balance the demands of family life and their jobs. He believes that strong families require that parents be involved in the lives of their children. Flexible work arrangements can help families strike the right balance. John McCain was proud to support the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993 that ensured men and women are able to take leave to care for a newborn child, adopt a child or care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition and return to a position that is substantially equal in pay, benefits and responsibility. This was a needed minimum standard to ensure that parents were not penalized for making the important decision to raise a family.
John McCain co-sponsored the Family Friendly Workplace Act, which sought to allow employers to provide flexible work schedules to help employees balance the demands and needs of work and family, such as allowing employees to take compensatory time-off rather than be paid overtime and to work more than 40 hours in one week and correspondingly less in another week.
John McCain also understands that our changing economy forces many families to deal with the disruptions that come with a job change. He believes that families should be able to hold onto the health and retirement benefits that they have chosen. He also believes that workers should be able to choose new training that fits their personal situation so that they can build new skills as their careers change.
John McCain believes that to keep America competitive in the world economy, employers need to be able to attract and retain workers. This requires employers to offer flexible work arrangements and allow workers to bring their health and retirement benefits with them or choose new plans. John McCain also believes that as our workforce ages, many older Americans want to continue to stay in jobs. These workers have the experience and skills that help keep America competitive. More flexible work arrangements would enable these workers to continue their careers and help keep our economy competitive. John McCain is calling for a National Commission on Workplace Flexibility and Choice. This Commission would bring together a bi-partisan set of leaders representing workers, small and large employers, labor and academics. The Commission would make recommendations to the President on how modernizing our nation’s labor laws and training programs can help workers better balance the demands of their job with family life and to enable workers to more easily transition between jobs.
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