Tech-Centric Buttigieg Urges Gig Economy to Unionize

(CN) – Any origin story about South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, from his memoir “The Shortest Way Home” to any number of glossy magazine profiles, will dedicate some time to how Silicon Valley values have shaped his political priorities in Indiana.

South Bend Mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg participates in a Fight for 15 protest in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 15, 2019. (Photo credit: Chuck Kennedy / Pete for America)

The 2020 Democratic presidential contender took a surprising turn on that legacy with a new economic platform that calls to unionize the gig economy.

“Our economy is changing, and too many Americans are working full time, some working two or even three jobs, and still finding it impossible to make ends meet,” Buttigieg said in a statement Friday, channeling some of the ideas, rhetoric and messaging of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two of his left-flanking opponents.

“Things continue to get more expensive, but paychecks aren’t getting any bigger,” Buttigieg added.

Dubbed “A New Rising Tide,” Buttigieg’s economic messaging may recall the trickle-down rhetoric of President Ronald Reagan, but substance contradicts the packaging. The small-city mayor’s plan envisions the lifting tide coming from the sea floor, backing a $15 minimum wage, harsh penalties for union busting, and a government policy favoring contracts to companies with collective bargaining.

In April, Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled his plan to ban so-called Right to Work laws, legislation that allows workers to withhold union dues while still benefitting from the collective-bargaining process.

Premised upon the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, such laws can now be found in 28 states and Guam, and they have spread with heavy lobbying from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and prominent Republican donors. The ideologically split Supreme Court dealt organized labor a decisive blow last year in Janus v. AFSCME, ruling that the right to freely associate prevents government-employee unions from forcing nonmember workers to pay bargaining fees.

That majority holding inspired a scorching dissent from Justice Elena Kagan: “The First Amendment was meant for better things.”

True to its data-friendly image, the Buttigieg campaign sent out an interactive map of every state showing the political party of the executive branch in each state with Right to Work laws. Nearly each one with such legislation has a Republican governor.

“All of these changes have shifted bargaining power, bit by bit, from workers to their employers,” Buttigieg’s plan states, duly citing the assertion with a footnote.

As shown by the yellow dot, states with so-called Right to Work laws tend to coincide with Republicans holding executive power. (Image credit: Pete for America)

The Powerpoint-focused populism may not satisfy the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, which has looked askance at Buttigieg’s tenure as a consultant for McKinsey, a powerful consulting firm that has faced a swirl of negative coverage for clients’ corporate misconduct.

Joining the “Fight for $15” minimum-wage protests, Buttigieg made his announcement in a campaign video where he dons a white-collar shirt and blue tie in front of workers.

“We stand with you, and we will not rest until everyone has $15 and a union,” the South Bend mayor is seen shouting into a cordless microphone, flanked by workers and a cheering man in a hard hat.

Buttigieg’s plan also emphasizes pay transparency to reduce the race and gender gaps in income, a Paycheck Fairness Act banning employers from using salary history to determine wages, and strengthened anti-harassment laws.

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