Julián Castro unveils labor plan to promote unions

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro on Wednesday unveiled a labor plan aimed at promoting union membership and supporting and protecting domestic workers and farmworkers.

Consisting of three new policy proposals, his plan is underpinned, he writes in a Medium post, by the belief that “all work has dignity and all workers should be valued with good pay, solid benefits, and the security of a strong union.”

“This fight is personal,” the 2020 presidential candidate writes. He invokes his grandmother, who he says worked as a maid, cook and babysitter, and his mother, an organizer and activist. He noted that he learned from a young age that “people who pick our food or clean homes do hard jobs and deserve respect.”

His “Unions for All” plan aims to more than double union membership, and would give workers a seat on corporate boards for a more powerful voice in the workplace. It would require large, publicly traded corporations to reserve at least one-third of board seats for workers who would be elected by employees who are not managers.

Castro proposes advancing the use of sectoral bargaining, which he says would allow workers to organize for higher wages across industries. His plan would prohibit anti-competitive labor practices, including non-compete agreements “that limit worker freedom and mobility.”

He would end “employee misclassification,” according to the plan, which affects short-term contract workers and “gig economy” workers. Employers deny benefits and labor protections to workers by classifying them as “independent contractors,” according to the plan.

Castro’s “Dignity for Domestic Workers” plan would push for the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, which would strengthen labor protections like overtime protections, ending exclusion from anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws, and health and safety protections.

The plan would establish portable benefits, including paid family leave, medical leave and health care. It would protect workers who report crimes or labor violations from retaliation from legal authorities or employers.

Castro would ensure “employment-based immigration meets the needs of the American economy,” and would provide agricultural and domestic workers with a pathway to citizenship. The plan would also establish housing support for victims of human trafficking.

His “Justice for Farmworkers” policy would include farmworkers in labor and employment law protections. It would ensure parity in wage protections for farmworkers, including overtime pay and minimum wage, according to the proposal.

The plan would create and enforce strict health and safety regulations, including against pesticide exposure, poor air quality and excessive heat. It would end the exploitation of child labor in agriculture, and would protect workers against crimes and workplace violations, including sexual harassment.

The proposal would prepare “farmworkers for the economy of the future,” and double the budget of the Department of Labor’s National Farmworker Jobs Program to $160 million to provide more job training, financial literacy training, and other social services for farmworkers.