Peace and Freedom Party has voted overwhelmingly to support three pieces of federal legislation – or rather four, as the text of House Resolution (H.R.) 842 (R. Scott) in the US House of Representatives and of Senate bill (S.) 420 (Murray) are essentially identical.
Together, H.R.842 and S.420 are sponsored by organized labor and are known as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act). H.R.1976 (Jayapal and Dingell) is the Medicare for All bill for a comprehensive single-payer healthcare system. H.R.3863 (Beyer) is the Fair Representation Act, a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) bill that creates multi-winner districts where possible.
The addressing of issues in these bills have been promoted by Peace and Freedom Party since the early 1980s. Through our agitation and working with others around them, these topics have moved into the mainstream. Of course, if we had people in the US Congress, we would make amendments to improve these bills, but they are important to support now because they expand the discussions on these three issues. And, of course, we want you to understand these issues –help us spread the word, and use these issues to organize around.
Protecting the Right to Organize
In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act, a.k.a. the Wagner Act, guaranteed workers the right to join unions, strike, and bargain collectively. It also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to oversee labor relations. In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act made the organization of unions more difficult by prohibiting certain union practices, requiring disclosures of certain financial and political activities, and opening the door for “right to work” laws. Over the years, it seems like every amendment has made it more difficult to form unions and has whittled away labor rights. The truth is that the Democratic Party has failed, even when they are in total control, to pass pro-labor legislation.
The PRO Act is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the passage of the Wagner Act. Workers would be able to organize and bargain. Workers would be able to reach a first contract quickly once a union is recognized. The NLRB would have the power to penalize employers who retaliate against striking workers and there would be an end to hiring permanent replacement workers, a.k.a. “scabs.” In my opinion, the repeal of the “right to work” (for less) laws and creating pathways to form unions are the better parts of this bill.
Wages, benefits, and working conditions are the meat of a good contract. these can close racial and gender wage and benefit gaps. They can provide dignity at the workplace and can provide for due process.
If the PRO Act were to pass, union density would increase along with wages. A Gallup poll found that 65% of Americans approve of labor unions and research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that nearly half of non-union workers, more than 60 million, would vote to join a union if they could choose to do so.
The PRO Act would allow our laws to catch up with the aspirations of working people. Unfortunately, with the current Senate filibuster rule, the Democrats do not seem to be able to get the votes they need to pass it. In fact, even if the filibuster was removed, it is still not clear that the Democratic Party would get enough votes to pass the PRO Act.
Medicare for All is a Single-Payer Federal Healthcare Plan
This bill, Medicare for All, would establish a high-quality, universal, comprehensive, national single-payer healthcare system with no copays and no deductibles.
This bill establishes a national health insurance program that is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to the summary, the program must (1) cover all U.S. residents; (2) provide for automatic enrollment of individuals upon birth or residency in the United States; and (3) cover items and services that are medically necessary or appropriate to maintain health or to diagnose, treat, or rehabilitate a health condition, including hospital services, prescription drugs, mental health, substance abuse treatment, dental and vision services, and long-term care.
It prohibits deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, and other charges for covered services. However, after reading that “private health insurers and employers may only offer coverage that is supplemental to, and not duplicative of, benefits provided under the program,” I ask myself, “if this is comprehensive healthcare coverage then what exactly does supplemental care cover?”
Health insurance exchanges and specified federal health programs terminate upon program implementation. However, the program does not effect coverage provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Indian Health Service.
The bill also establishes a series of implementing provisions relating to (1) healthcare provider participation; (2) HHS administration; and (3) payments and costs, including the requirement that HHS negotiate prices for prescription drugs.
Individuals who are age 18 or younger, age 55 or older, or already enrolled in Medicare may enroll in the program starting one year after enactment of this bill; other individuals may buy into the program at this time. The program must be fully implemented two years after enactment.
Ranked Choice Voting using Single Transferable Vote where possible
The Fair Representation Act would establish the use of ranked-choice voting in elections for Senators and Representatives in Congress, require each state with five or fewer Representatives to establish one at large district, require each state with more than five Representatives to establish districts where three to five members would be elected, and require states to conduct congressional redistricting through independent commissions.
The bill would create much larger U.S. House districts. Most districts would elect three to five members of the U.S. House. However, my fear is that if a state is entitled to elect, let us say, 15 members to the U.S. House of Representatives, the state would choose five three-member districts rather than three five-member districts. This would merely perpetuate the two-party system, as one of the establishment parties would get two seats and the other established party would receive one seat. The more seats in a district, the more proportional the results. For example, if there were 10 members in a district, a candidate with a little over 9% of the vote would win a seat. It may help if the number of members in the U.S. House were increased.
Every voter has only one vote, although each voter would be able to rank her or his choices. In U.S. Senate elections, a ranked-choice voting method, which requires a majority of the vote, i.e. 50% plus one vote, would be used for a candidate to be elected. This system is used in several cities and is often called instant runoff voting (IRV).
In U.S. House elections where three to five members would be elected, the Fair Elections Act requires that states use a “droop” formula (the total number of votes cast divided by the number of seats to be filled plus one) to allot seats. In a five-member district, a candidate who received nearly 17% or more of the vote would be elected. Excess votes for a winning candidate would be transferred to other candidates who still need more votes. Once all excess votes have been transferred and there are still seats to be filled, the candidate who has the fewest number of votes would be dropped and her or his votes would be transferred to the next choices of the remaining candidates on the list, in order to help one of them win. This form of ranked-choice voting, also known as a single transferrable vote (STV) or proportional ranked-choice voting, means that fewer votes would be wasted.
The Fair Representation Act solves our problems with gerrymandering and would create more opportunities for women, people of color, urban Republicans, rural Democrats, and independents.
In short, RCV offers many improvements over the current election systems used in this country. It gives voters more choices; lets voters support their first choice without causing the “lesser evil” to lose; rewards candidates who are the second choice for some of their opponents’ supporters; and reduces cost by making runoff elections redundant.
As a side note, most countries that use proportional representation use a list system. The main problem with ranked-choice voting is that it is based on the individual. I favor a system that builds strong parties that stand for a program that its members agree with. That is why I favor a list system. Germany has a mixed system that allows its voters to vote for a candidate in their district and then vote for a party list. Each party that receives at least 5% of the vote will have a number of seats that is in direct proportion to the number of votes it received.
Voters Choice Act
The Voters Choice Act has just been introduced as S.2939 (Bennet and King) in the U.S. Senate and as H.R.5500 (Phillips) in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, if passed, they could speed up the adoption of Ranked Choice Voting across the country. This Act provides $40 million in federal grants to states and cities to cover up to 50% of the costs to transition to Ranked Choice Voting. Peace and Freedom Party has not yet had the opportunity to study and take a position on this bill.
–written by C.T. Weber