By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer
Again reiterating that she stands with workers and unions, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton linked honest work and honest pay with the right to unionize.
Her Oct. 4 address to an overflow crowd in Toledo, Ohio, concentrated on the economy and her plans to help workers and the middle class, but it also included a few swipes at her GOP foe, business mogul Donald Trump, about his tax payments – or lack of them.
And she had several stern warnings for corporate tycoons, too, including a promise to advocate “an exit tax” imposed on firms that leave the U.S., by technically changing their headquarters, to escape paying federal taxes.
“If companies try to leave our country to avoid paying their fair share, if they try to outsource jobs, they’re going to have to give back every tax break they ever received in our country,” the former U.S. senator and Obama administration Secretary of State declared.
Clinton’s Toledo speech, along with a later one in Akron, were part of her campaign’s efforts to win the key swing state away from Trump – and also to convince white male blue-collar voters who have lost their jobs to unfair foreign trade to vote for her.
Polls show Trump, who has made opposition to so-called “free trade” pacts a key issue in his campaign, with a huge lead among those white men. Many are unionists or union retirees. Organized labor is also campaigning among them, trying to convince them to abandon Trump. Other than trade, he’s an anti-worker business mogul, unions assert.
Clinton took a more positive tack. To encourage people to vote for her, she told the crowd, including those in the overflow room, that: “Honest work deserves honest pay.”
After the audience replied “Yeah!” Clinton declared that: “We believe everyone should have the right to join a strong union that will always have your back,” a statement that produced loud applause.
She later elaborated, stating: “We need to support new organizing strategies for employees who too often have never had the benefit of collective bargaining, and we have to resist the assault on workers’ rights,” although she was not specific about what the new strategies would look like.
And Clinton immediately followed that declaration by adding: “Let’s say loudly and clearly: Right to work is wrong for workers and wrong for America.” RTW, pushed by big business, its right wing and its GOP allies – including Trump -- lets workers use union services without paying for them, and it’s designed to bankrupt unions.
Low-wage workers seeking a decent living also drew Clinton’s backing. She openly supported raising the minimum wage, the “Fight for 15” campaign, eligibility for overtime pay, pursuit of corporate wage theft, equal pay for equal work, and paid family leave and child care all “so you don’t have to live in poverty.” She got more applause. She did not, however, mention the other half of the Fight for 15 campaign’s goal, the words “and a union.”
All of those goals, she said, help workers deal with “kitchen table issues...You know, the ones that keep you up at night, like the cost of childcare and college and prescription drugs and so much else.” Clinton said they’ll be her focus if she wins the White House in November.
And, reminding the crowd of the historic nature of her candidacy, Clinton reiterated her advocacy for women, including working women.
Clinton’s main theme was how to create more good jobs with rising incomes so the U.S. can fulfill “the basic bargain” that “if you’re willing to work, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead.
Clinton said the campaign’s “defining debate” is over whether the economy should work for all. While many firms care for their workers and communities, “There are still too many powerful interests fighting to protect their own profits and privileges at the expense of everyone else,” she stated, to applause.
“They are aided and abetted by the rules and incentives in our economy which actually encourage people at the top to take advantage of consumers, workers, small businesses and taxpayers...and it gets even harder when we don’t aggressively enforce” pro-worker and pro-consumer rules, she said. Applause frequently interrupted that part of her speech.
Workers are especially hurt, she said, when the U.S. doesn’t “enforce trade rules that allow other countries with lower wages and standards to get an unfair leg up, when we don’t enforce rules on Wall Street, which exerts enormous pressure on publicly traded companies to prioritize boosting share prices in the short term, over building real value, investing in workers, plant and equipment over the longer term.”
And Clinton reiterated she would appoint a “chief trade prosecutor” to go after such trade rule violators, and triple the prosecutor’s staff. Unfair rules and lagging enforcement are key issues for industrial unions, led by the Steelworkers. That union leads the U.S. in bringing unfair trade suits against nations that dump imports here, costing workers jobs.
That led Clinton to elaborate on other parts of her economic plan, including:
• Opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a jobs-destroying so-called “free trade” treaty that unions and workers also are fighting. Clinton particularly singled out the treaty’s plan for a secret trade court, the ISDS, to promote corporate profits at the expense of workers and everyone else.
The TPP “sets up a dispute resolution system that favors large corporations over everyone else. It’s one of the reasons I’m against it. I’ve warned about this for years. I’ve written about it. And I oppose TPP now. I will oppose it after the election. I will oppose it as president because it is one-sided and unfair to American workers!” she said, to more applause.
• A crackdown on corporate crooks: “Today I want to send a clear message to every board room, every executive suite across America, if you scam your customers, exploit your many employees, pollute our environment, or rip off taxpayers, we will find ways to hold you accountable,” she declared.
• Eliminating tax loopholes the rich use to get away with paying less. “A Wall Street money manager should not be able to pay a lower tax rate than a teacher or a nurse,” Clinton stated. "It’s infuriating when they take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips in America with the other hand,” Clinton said. She pledged to close those tax loopholes, too.
• $10 billion for a “Make It In America” partnership to invest in U.S. factories. Clinton also proposes a “new markets tax credit for creating good jobs in poor or remote areas.”