Right now, in Washington and in states across the country, there is a battle over the future of America. Democrats are scrambling to find a path to victory in 2018.
Americans are looking to Democrats to stand up against the petulant, racist and phony populist rhetoric and policy coming from the White House and President Donald Trump’s enablers in Congress. But we are also looking for leaders with a set of visionary policies that reflect the values of working families.
It’s not enough to just say “no.” This is the time to go all-in on racial, gender and environmental justice. It’s the time to renew our commitment to democracy. If Democrats don’t stand for something, if they don’t deliver a positive message that resonates with working people in this country, then they will continue to lose.
Communications Workers of America (CWA) members come from all over the country and across the political spectrum. They are the voters who Democrats must win over in 2018 and beyond. And they agree across party lines about the priorities for this nation: higher wages, an end to the offshoring of American jobs, protection of the right to join together to create better workplaces.
These priorities provide a clear road map for Democrats in 2018. They form the heart of an economic justice program that will demonstrate to working people of all races and genders that Democrats put them first - and have the answers to the problems they face.
First, Democrats need to lead the fight to raise wages. Permanently.
When Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan promised every household a minimum $4,000 trickle-down wage increase if Congress passed the corporate tax cut bill, workers instead got a one-time bonus. Others got a layoff notice.
A small, one-time bonus just won’t cut it. We need permanent and real wage increases that actually land in the pockets of workers and create sustainable growth for our economy.
Next, let’s talk about jobs. Trade is a complicated issue. But what is not complicated is that millions of Americans clearly feel that the trade agreements of the last few decades - several of them championed by Democratic presidents - have caused the loss of millions of good American jobs.
We all know that Donald Trump tapped into those feelings in 2016.
Here’s the problem: Donald Trump is not fighting to bring good jobs back to America. This is a fight that Democrats must lead.
Two years ago, 40,000 Verizon workers went on strike for 49 days in order to bring call center jobs back from overseas. They won their strike - and their new contract included guarantees for call center work to stay and grow here, and for the hiring of over 1,000 new call center workers.
Working families know how to fight and win. We need Democrats to join that fight and stand up for protecting good American jobs.
Finally, let’s talk about unions and workers’ rights. At the heart of the progressive movement - at the heart of any living, breathing democracy - is the freedom of working people to join together in unions.
Working people increasingly understand that union membership and power in the workplace are critical in this economy.
We see it in the young people who are fighting for workers’ rights and unions. We see it as teachers demand change in red states after years of failed Republican austerity programs have decimated schools and other public services across our country.
Union members - including those who voted for Trump - believe that the ability to stand together for change is critical. They understand that only unions give them a fighting chance for their fair share of the economic pie.
Democrats must point to what Republicans have done over the last year to roll back workplace protections and make it even more difficult for working people to join together. They must explain what their plan is to not only stop these rollbacks but to increase workers’ power.
If Democrats do that, working people will listen. Working people will show up for candidates that support higher wages, jobs, and power in our workplaces.
And together we will take back America.
Chris Shelton is president of the Communications Workers of America.