A Green New Deal Means a Labor New Deal

What does an “all hands” moment for DSA look like? Perhaps this one, to judge from recent communications across the organization pointing to the first major campaign of 2021. 

The new Biden administration is making big commitments around the climate crisis, but the working class needs more than a restoration of the Obama-era status quo and massive handouts to corporations for “green” capitalism. We need a Green New Deal that massively expands the public sector and guarantees good green jobs for all workers.

A first step is ensuring that Biden’s campaign promises to support labor become reality.

The PRO Act, which passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate, would be the most significant pro-union labor law rewrite since the 1935 Wagner Act. It would almost certainly lead to a major revival of unionization and working-class power.

The PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act has several key provisions. The bill would impose financial penalties on businesses that violate workers’ rights, remove prohibitions on solidarity strikes, and ban captive-audience meetings in contested union elections. Perhaps most significantly, it would put a federal ban  on so-called right-to-work laws and push back against gig-economy exploitation by tightening standards around independent contractor classification. It’s a good bill. DSA supports it, and during the campaign, Joe Biden said he did, too.

In March 2009, then-Vice President Biden gave a surprisingly decent speech to the AFL-CIO’s annual conference in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). EFCA was one of Barack Obama’s key campaign promises. By allowing unions to form via “Card Check,” instead of forcing secret NLRB elections, the bill would have made it much easier for workers to organize. “This is all going to be difficult,” Biden said, “and one of the most difficult things will be to re-institute that basic bargain” between business and labor: that higher productivity means higher wages. “And I think the way to do that is the Employee Free Choice Act.” But like so much of the Obama administration’s promises, it evaporated in the face of massive opposition by the forces of capital.

Does the PRO Act have a better shot than the EFCA did? We learned our lesson from the EFCA debacle.  Democrats such as Biden aren’t going to make better labor laws a priority unless we push them, and now is our chance to up the pressure.

That’s why the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission and DSA’s Green New Deal Campaign are launching a push for the First 100 Days of the new administration to pass the PRO Act, which would strengthen unions and the power of the working class to organize on the job, helping to build labor power as strong as it needs to be in the months and years ahead to win a just transition to a green economy for all communities. The original New Deal was won through militant labor organizing. Rebuilding this capacity is crucial to DSA’s work for a radical Green New Deal.

Passage of the PRO Act will be a game-changer. And DSA is no longer on the sidelines.