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Martin O'Malley calls for worker protections

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley (center) pictured onstage during the FUSION presents the Brown & Black Democratic Forum at Drake University.
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley (center) pictured onstage during the FUSION presents the Brown & Black Democratic Forum at Drake University. (Fernando Leon / Getty Images for Fusion)

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley will call for legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize and will announce his support for a proposal to give employees more control over their schedules -- part of a broader series of workplace policies his campaign described Thursday as a "workers bill of rights."

The former two-term governor of Maryland, whose campaign for the nomination has struggled to gain traction, said he would push for legislation to expand union representation by "modernizing the organizing process" and would support increasing the power of federal regulators to step in when companies stand in the way of collective bargaining.

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"As I've traveled across the country, it's clear that we have come a long way since the Wall Street crash of 2008, when millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, and life savings," O'Malley posted on Medium Thursday. "Yet we still have urgent work to do ... especially when it comes to America's middle class and the working people who, too often, have been shut out of the recovery."

O'Malley's proposals may prove popular with Democratic primary voters and the unions that help bring those voters to the polls, but it's not likely that many of the ideas would go anywhere in a Republican-controlled Congress skeptical of new businesses regulations.

O'Malley touted several longstanding Democratic policy measures -- equal pay for women and paid family medical leave, among them -- but he also embraced less well known ideas. The former governor said he would back legislation to let employees request more predictable hours and that would also require companies to pay workers more for split shifts.

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O'Malley used his "bill of rights" to take another swipe at the trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations that the Obama administration hopes Congress will approve later this year. O'Malley would "reject trade agreements like the TPP that are written by corporate lobbyists behind closed doors," his campaign said, and would seek more transparency as those deals are being negotiated.

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