By Philip Erro
To win back the House, the Senate and state legislatures, Democrats need to focus on one thing: higher pay for all workers. Millions of people are working for minimum wage at fast-food restaurants, small businesses and farms. Other people such as smart phone app writers, Lyft drivers and freelance designers have little bargaining power when they sell their services. If Democrats increase the earnings of all these people, they will create an energized base of millions of workers who will vote for them and work in their campaigns.
In the gig economy, workers need to do numerous small jobs for five or six customers to earn a living instead of working for one employer fulltime. Graphic designers must be in constant contact with advertising agencies, sign makers and other customers to know what they need and create the needed designs in the required time frames. Software app writers submit several apps weekly to gigantic companies such as Amazon and feel good that they accept their work, even if the likes of Amazon don’t pay for their work.
In these situations, workers take the initiative to reach out to potential customers, sometimes having to use Web-based gig searching sites such as www. startmoonlighting.com to find out who those customers are. When they connect with prospective customers, they show them their work and get paid only when companies can use their products or services and deem them valuable enough to pay for them.
Electronic Collective Bargaining for Freelance and Wage Workers
Democrats need to enlist tens of thousands of people who have social media, Web search and Internet skills to organize workers thousands of miles apart working in diverse fields from fast food to music gigs to hairstyling to writing software. Uber and Lyft drivers could set their fees among themselves on line to get better pay. Immigrant hair stylists throughout a city or region who pay an exorbitant share of their earnings to the shop owners could unite on a Web site and demand a better deal.
Baristas at Starbucks and Peet’s throughout the nation could call in sick or implement a work slowdown to get better hours, wages and benefits. Coffee vendors, hair salon operators and ride-hailing companies would have to negotiate with worker collectives to reach agreement on wages and cost share percentages.
Construction workers from entry-level carpenters to equipment operators to information technology workers could connect through Web sites to negotiate better pay and benefits.
Wi t h r e s i d e n t i a l construction growing and large infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail and dam retrofits in progress, now is the time to unionize construction workers. Unionization could increase the pay and benefits of low-skill house framers to highly skilled IT network designers, place them at the table of companies bidding on large jobs and secure base pay between jobs.
The aerospace industry is also a good candidate for unionization. Boeing built a plant in South Carolina to avoid unions, but its bad treatment of workers has motivated those workers to form a union.
Many of us who demonstrated in Washington, D.C., and around the country on Inauguration Day could connect electronically with Boeing workers in South Carolina and coordinate demonstrations of solidarity with them at Boeing’s headquarters in Chicago.
We could connect online with equipment operators, concrete finishers and engineers in Oroville to organize demonstrations in Sacramento to increase their pay. Using 21st century technology and organizing techniques, those of us who voted for higher pay, inclusive healthcare and a strong social safety net on Nov. 8 last year can create a strong voter base for Democrats in 2018.
Hardly any of us can afford to devote 20 hours a week, let alone 40 hours week, to setting up labor organizing Web sites and reaching out to workers in other states. How could we get paid for this work? Consider that Bill and Hillary Clinton have a net worth of $120 million and that Nancy Pelosi has a net worth of $45 million and that another 25 prominent Democrats are multimillionaires. These Democrats can raise campaign money easily because they know other wealthy people who help them raise money.
Surely, they could raise $10 million by the end of this year to train and pay 21st century labor organizers to learn the pay issues of aircraft workers, farmworkers, engineers, designers, baristas, hairstylists, app writers and truck drivers in New York, Alabama, Oregon and Iowa and organize these workers around key issues to secure better pay.
If Democrats successfully organize workers of all kinds in all states, workers will prosper and become enthusiastic supporters of Democratic candidates. By concentrating on majority low- and moderate-income state and Congressional districts, Democrats could handily defeat incumbent Republicans and win back state houses, the House and the Senate.
Philip Erro is a native of Fresno and longtime progressive activist. He organized a hunger survey in 2014 called Fresno Hunger Count that documented deficient nutrition for 64,400 residents of metropolitan Fresno. He has been a social justice and environmental advocate for more than 40 years. Contact him at philipaerro@ gmail.com.