What A Party Platform Says, and Means

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

We were originally going to use this column to discuss how the two political party conventions reveal the soul – or lack of it – of the Democrats and the Republicans. But on second thought, and after reading through the entire texts of both, we’ve got a better source for that mantle: The parties’ platforms.

Yes, we know, party platforms are usually filed and forgotten. Indeed, even presidential nominees have been known on many occasions to disregard them during the campaign and to reverse course completely once they achieve office.

Workers have only to remember Barack Obama’s promises about renegotiating job-losing trade pacts – and what he did once he took office – to get that point.

Still, the platforms are an even better index, because they reflect not just the views of the nominee, but of the party faithful, and particularly of its officeholders. So reading the platforms will tell you – as it did us – what policies the parties intend to impose should they win.

For workers, it’s no contest. 

The Republican platform, with one exception – the job-losing trade pacts – is anti-worker. And even there, it only promises tougher bargaining to renegotiate them. After all, the party nominee, business mogul Donald Trump, is supposedly skilled in the art of the deal.

But on everything else – worker rights, the minimum wage, decent wages for workers through project labor agreements, mass transit, government workers’ pay and pensions and reproductive rights – the Republican platform is so resolutely anti-worker that it curls your hair.

As a matter of fact, about the only thing it leaves out is outright abolition of unions. Whoops, it’s got that, too, at the Transportation Security Administration.

The Democratic platform is not perfect, especially on the trade pacts. It says future pacts must include enforceable worker rights in their texts, but it doesn’t outright oppose the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, which doesn’t. That’s a top cause of President Obama, big business and Congress’ ruling Republicans – despite Donald Trump. 

And it doesn’t advocate single-payer government-run national health care, a key cause of unionists who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt.  Some 20 national unions, led by the Steelworkers and National Nurses United, also campaign hard for single-payer.

But the Democratic platform calls for stronger labor law, more enforcement, supports public schools instead of private schools, advocates more spending on infrastructure, supports Davis-Bacon and campaigns not just for equal pay for equal work but for the Equal Rights Amendment. And that’s for starters.

We could go on, but you get the idea. Party platforms show governing philosophies, more than candidates’ platitudes on the campaign trail.

So if you want to know what a presidential nominee or a member of Congress, senator or governor really believes, don’t just listen to what he or she says. Read the platform. That’s their party’s philosophy, after all. And that’s what a platform really stands for.


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