For Capitalism to Work, Labor Must Be Strong
I am a believer in capitalism. And for capitalism to work, labor must be able to bargain collectively to maintain decent working conditions and keep a fair share of its productivity. I walked the picket line again this weekend with hotel housekeepers striking against inhumane working conditions, including anti-strike violence by Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Los Angeles. RFK, Jr.’s Policies + PoliticsRead More
I am a believer in capitalism. And for capitalism to work, labor must be able to bargain collectively to maintain decent working conditions and keep a fair share of its productivity.
I walked the picket line again this weekend with hotel housekeepers striking against inhumane working conditions, including anti-strike violence by Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Los Angeles.
Working people across the country will recognize the general outlines of the Fairmont housekeepers’ predicament. As Oliver Anthony put it, “I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay.”
These workers have to clean 14 to 15 large rooms a day. The hotel, which cut staff during Covid, is now enjoying pre-Covid occupancy rates and profits but nevertheless wants to increase daily workloads to 18 rooms to compensate for understaffing.
Three out of every five workers are injured on the job each year due to repetitive lifting of heavy mattresses and bending to scrub and clean.
Workers typically commute 2 hours from Palmdale or Victorville because of the unaffordable housing in Santa Monica. Some live in their cars during the workweek to save gas money. Their situation is common across the country, as the housing affordability crisis has made 1-2 hour commutes (sometimes even longer) normal.
Many of the workers also work two jobs to keep up with inflation.
It would be nice to blame the hardships of the workers on some convenient bad guy. One could focus, for example, on Hilton’s CEO, who doubled his own salary from $10 million to $20 million annually while laying off hundreds of employees during the pandemic. But often this kind of behavior bespeaks a kind of disconnect. Sitting behind spreadsheets, immersed in C-suite meetings, it is hard to see the day-to-day troubles of regular workers.
Furthermore, it is hard to give in to worker demands for better pay and more humane working conditions if one’s competitors do not. Corporate executives are under pressure from shareholders, banks, bondholders, and boards of directors. If we blame the problem on mere greed, then we are missing 99% of the cause of exploitation.
That is why organized labor is so important. Organized labor can negotiate across entire industries, raising the floor for workers not only at Hilton or Marriott but for all hotel workers. It is easier to give your workers a square deal when your competitors have to as well.
Traditionally, the Democratic Party has recognized much better than Republicans the importance of organized labor in making capitalism work for everyone. Today though, many elements of the party have abandoned working people, aligning instead with corporations and Wall Street, gazing out at the world from behind a spreadsheet.
That’s why President Biden is able to proclaim that the economy is doing great. If you look at the right numbers, yes, the economy looks good. But not if you talk to the man driving the bus or the woman cleaning the hotel room.
One of my goals in running for President is to reclaim the Democratic Party for working men and women. In my administration, you can expect vigorous action by the Justice Department and the Department of Labor to enforce laws against union-busting and unfair labor practices.
We will also raise the minimum wage so that unions have a higher floor from which to bargain. We will negotiate trade treaties that don’t pit American workers against low-wage foreign workers in a “race to the bottom.” And we will address the housing affordability crisis on a massive scale.
The deteriorating condition of working-class Americans has roots going back two generations. It won’t be solved overnight. But the first step is to do what the striking hotel workers are doing — to make the situation visible.
The policy-making elite doesn’t understand how bad it is out there. It is unacceptable. People who work hard should have a decent life. They should not have to sleep in their cars. They should not have to work two jobs.
We can do better than this, and during my Presidency, we WILL do better than this.