By Megan Uzzell, Director, Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs, Democracy Forward
It is fundamental to our democratic promise that every worker is able to earn fair wages and benefits, have freedom from discrimination, and work in a safe and healthy environment. On Labor Day we honor workers — and their enduring movement — who keep our country progressing and make our democracy strong.
But, as in every generation since Labor Day was first celebrated, there are extremists who seek to undo and resist efforts to build and sustain worker power and equality in the workplace.
At Democracy Forward, we are honored to help ensure workers in communities all across our country have access to the legal and regulatory tools to defend against these anti-democratic attacks, and to build towards a more just future:
We’ve worked with a broad coalition to defend the legality of President Biden’s federal contractor minimum wage increase.
More than a dozen Attorneys General have brought several challenges in multiple courts across the country attacking the minimum wage for federal contractors and subcontractors. These AGs are attacking a policy that would push more than 327,000 workers above the poverty threshold and improve our economy. Janitors, call center workers, security guards, and guides on federal lands are all federal contractors – and they are disproportionately women, Black and Latinx workers. Raising their pay will also help to narrow the racial and gender wage gaps in federal contractor workforces.
As part of a broad coalition including organizations like the National Employment Law Project, the Communications Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union, the National Women’s Law Center, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Grand Canyon Institute, Democracy Forward has defended the legality of the president’s wage increase in court against these attacks. Just last week, we filed a brief urging the Ninth Circuit to uphold the increase, underscoring the legality of the increase in the minimum wage.
We helped restaurant workers and women truckers support the FTC’s proposed rule banning noncompete agreements by sharing their compelling stories.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a new rule that would ban employers from imposing noncompete agreements on their workers, a widespread and often exploitative practice that suppresses wages, prevents workers from finding better jobs, hampers innovation, and blocks entrepreneurs from starting new businesses.
In April of this year, we filed comments in support of the proposed rule on behalf of REAL Women in Trucking and Restaurant Opportunities Center United, as well as a coalition of legal scholars. In their comments, workers shared with the government the harms that noncompetes can cause, from a Louisiana restaurant worker stuck making $2.13 per hour during the pandemic to a single parent in Mississippi who is barred by their employer’s non-compete from seeking employment at other fast food chains or other jobs.
We worked with small businesses to defend the constitutionality of OSHA in court.
An Ohio-based company filed a lawsuit driven by extremist interests seeking to gut Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) authority to set and enforce workplace standards. In the fifty years since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA has set and enforced workplace safety standards to protect the health of our nation’s workforce. Not only does this targeted enforcement significantly reduce the incidence of workplace fatalities and injuries, but also businesses (and employees) experience substantial benefits from the safer workplaces that result.
On behalf of small business associations representing tens of thousands of businesses, we filed a brief to urge the court to reject these extremists’ efforts to undermine OSHA and to highlight that the result would be catastrophic for workers, bad for consumers, and hinder the ability of small businesses to compete. And, in a victory for small businesses and OSHA, last month the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision upholding the agency’s authority.
No matter the venue or threat, it is critical to our democracy that workers have the tools they need to fight for fair wages and their rights to safe and healthy workplaces. And Democracy Forward will be there with them, every step of the way.