Bernie Sander’s greatest strength has always been his determination to push the boundaries of our politics. The fact that he is currently considering joining the government of President-elect Joe Biden as Secretary of Labor is the latest example of his willingness to think outside the box.
The Vermont Senator’s interest in the position has been an open secret for weeks. He is now said“If I had a portfolio that I could stand up with and fight for working families, would I? Yes I would.”
The prospect that he could take over the Department of Labor is just that: a prospect. The two-time presidential candidate put things into perspective when he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “What is true, I want to do everything I can to protect the country’s working families who are currently in dire straits.” Whether it’s in the Senate, whether it’s in the Biden administration, who knows. ” As Sanders says“Well, let’s see how that turns out.”
There are good arguments for Sanders staying in the Senate, where he used his platform to fight for everything Health insurance for everyone to Net neutrality to a humane foreign policy. He put together an exceptional staff that made his office work an important entry point for activists on issues of economic, social and racial justice as well the climate crisis.
It is also about the delicate balance of the chamber. Republicans could lose their Senate majority if Georgia voters elect Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock on Jan. 5. With two more Democratic seats, the Senate would be split 50:50 so that the new Vice President Kamala Harris could tip the balance in favor of the new President’s party. The idea of removing a member of the Senate Democratic caucus is understandably worrying – even if Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott, has signaled that he would fill a position with an independent who would meet with the Democrats.
Then there are deeper questions about whether Biden is really ready to charge the Department of Labor and put a former rival at the top.
But let’s suppose the boldness wins. As the most prominent member of Biden’s cabinet, what could Sanders do?
With Biden’s blessings and a portfolio that enabled him to act with authority and a reasonable level of independence, Sanders could turn the Department of Labor into a center of advocacy and service for American workers, which it must be in such a tumultuous economic moment than the one that the United States is on.
The Department of Labor was established in 1913 with the aim of “promoting, promoting, and developing the welfare of wage earners, job seekers, and retirees in the United States; Improve working conditions; Promote opportunities for profitable employment; and ensure work-related benefits and rights. “In the best case, how when Frances Perkins The department served as the Labor Secretary to President Franklin Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945 and has played a transformative role in the lives of workers. And it has to be on its best if the Biden government is serious about tackling the economic devastation wrought from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sanders has been focusing on the related pandemic and worker concerns since the last days of his 2020 presidential motion when he explained to me that alongside the health crisis, we are “looking at an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions”.
The Trump administration’s Department of Labor has failed to protect frontline workers and workers in general since the pandemic. Sanders recognizes the need for action addressing the immediate crisis and the severe injustice it entails. “I think this crisis is tearing the band off and saying, ‘Hey, this is the reality. ‘And the reality today is that there are people who work in dangerous jobs where they could get the virus because they have to go to work,’ he told me in April. “They make $ 12 an hour and they are terrified of working in that grocery store or drug store or wherever they work, but they have to.” And while rich people go to their second or third home, these people risk their lives to take care of their families. ”
As the most famous labor secretary since Perkins, appointed by the President to act decisively, Sanders would be in a unique position to face the crisis head on. Nobody suggests that the task is easy. He would have to wrestle not only with Republicans, but also with cautious Democrats. But he has a track record of it.
Sanders would have a bullying pulpit from which he could advocate replacing the minimum wage with a living wage formula to lift workers out of poverty. He could lambast anti-union “right to work” laws. And he could push for labor law reforms, as outlined in his 2020 presidential campaign.Democracy in the workplaceAgenda that proposed dual union membership in four years.
If Biden were politically savvy enough to kick off his formal rival, Sanders could use his notoriety and national network of supporters to make the Department of Labor a place where an agenda for workers’ rights can be pushed forward as ambitiously as the FDR and Perkins championed in the 1930s. He could use the tremendous resources of a $ 50 billion-staff department to not only enforce existing laws to protect working-class Americans, but also develop new legislative strategies, regulations, and programs to expand that protection . It could highlight the immediate struggles of workers and advance research on the future of work, automation and the gig economy.
We are in a moment of great excitement for advancing labor and labor rights, and Sanders would not have to do it all alone. In the tradition of the New Deal era, as cabinet members like Perkins and Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace Sanders surrounded himself with the most daring thinkers and doers in the country and was able to build a team that led with him.
There are a number of formidable prospects for the Labor Secretary position in a Biden administration that Sanders has worked with over the years. If the senator received the president-elect’s nod, he could achieve the best of these prospects. Think of fully empowered Assistant Labor Secretaries like the President of the Association of Flight Attendants Sara Nelson Developing programs to give workers a real voice in the workplace and in their industries; California Secretary of Labor Julie Su, Co-founder of Sweatshop Watch, focusing on workplace discrimination and safety issues; AFL-CIO chief economist and former Deputy Minister of Labor for Politics William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University, uses “a teachable moment” to look at it statistical discrimination and engage deeper, smarter, and more honestly Exploring the racial differences in economic outcomes. Sanders might even think about it Andrew Yang for a role defining the strategies needed to do meaningful work and compensation in the next economy.
Joe Biden traveled to join just days before the 2020 election Warm Springs, Ga.where he took on the mantle of FDR and promised a presidency that would “adopt an economic plan that finally rewards work, not prosperity in this country”. It is a noble goal that is rooted in the ambitions of the New Deal. To do this, Biden needs a labor department as visionary and brave as the one Frances Perkins led in Roosevelt’s day. If Biden gave him permission, Bernie Sanders and a team of visionary leaders could turn the Department of Labor into a platform for launching a new New Deal.