- PositionVermont Senator
The Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) campaign answered questions sent by Fortune and Time’s Up via email. The following transcript of that exchange has been edited for length and clarity.
Fortune/Time’s Up: Do you believe that the United States should have comprehensive paid family and medical leave and, if so, what is your proposal to make it happen?
Sanders campaign: Yes. Bernie believes we must guarantee paid family and medical leave, paid vacation, and paid sick days. When it comes to supporting real family values, the United States lags behind virtually every major country on earth. As President, Bernie will provide six months of paid family leave, provide families with paid sick time, paid vacation, and ensure survivors of domestic violence receive paid leave as well.
How will you ensure that families who need it have access to safe, affordable childcare?
The ages 0-4 are the most important years of human development. In America today, we have a dysfunctional childcare and pre-K system. It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest country in the world, we do not properly invest in our children’s healthy physical, social, educational, and cognitive development. We need a revolution in this country in terms of how we provide childcare and pre-K education. Bernie will guarantee universal childcare and prekindergarten to every child in America to help level the playing field, create new and good jobs, and enable parents more easily balance the demands of work and home.
Do you think institutions—from Congress to Fortune 500 companies—have done enough to address sexual harassment? What have you done, and what will you do, to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace?
No. When Bernie is in the White House, he will do everything he can to protect workers from workplace harassment and discrimination. Bernie is a proud co-sponsor of and will sign into law the BE HEARD Act, to expand and strengthen our anti-harrassment and discrimination laws and ensure individuals have access to justice.
This legislation will work to create harassment-free workplaces and crack down on companies that fail to address harassment and discrimination in the workplace. He will pass the Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals are protected from harassment. Bernie knows that one of the most important things we can do to stop workplace harassment and discrimination is to make it easier for workers to join unions to protect workers from exploitation and violations of labor laws. He will do just that by passing his Workplace Democracy plan and doubling union membership in this country. Bernie will undo Trump’s attack on the Equal Opportunity Commission. As President, Bernie will use executive authority to address sexual harassment.
Women in the U.S. earn 80 cents on white men’s dollar in wages, a gap that gets even wider for black women, Latinas, and Native American women. What is your plan to work with employers to close the pay and opportunity gap for women, including women of color, LGBTQ women, and working mothers?
Fifty-six years ago, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act to prevent wage discrimination against women—a struggle we are still fighting in 2019. It is time to finally ensure pay equity for women workers. Equal pay for equal work isn’t radical. It’s basic justice. Bernie believes we must guarantee every worker pay equity for the same work, regardless of your gender, race, disability, sexual identity, or immigration status. Bernie believes it’s time for America to treat the lives of women, and in particular women of color, like they’re worth more than change on the dollar.
Bernie will ensure that there is equal pay for equal work through the Paycheck Fairness Act, but it won’t stop there. He will enact paid family leave so we can stop forcing parents with a newborn baby back to work immediately after the birth because they lack paid family leave. Bernie will guarantee universal childcare and prekindergarten to every child in America to help level the playing field, create new and good jobs, and enable parents to more easily balance the demands of work and home. He will increase small-business lending to women to help them start their own businesses. He will ensure minimum wage workers, who are disproportionately adults and women of color, are guaranteed a job that pays a living wage of at least $15 an hour. This would result in a raise for the 53% of women working in minimum wage labor. Almost two-thirds of all student debt—nearly $929 billion as of 2019—in the U.S. is held by women. Bernie is going to cancel all of it and ensure that future generations can attend college tuition- and debt-free. He will make it easier for workers to join unions, ensuring women have union protections to address harassment and discrimination and to negotiate better wages.
Under Bernie’s Corporate Accountability and Democracy Plan, we will require every corporation to complete an annual report that gives the compensation, gender, and racial composition of employees and board members. The Corporate Accountability and Democracy Plan will require all companies with more than $100 million in annual revenue to obtain a federal corporate charter that will enforce these requirements.
Do you support policies that require corporations to have women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards? Why or why not?
Yes. Under Bernie’s Corporate Accountability and Democracy Plan, we will develop rules to diversify corporate boards by ensuring a significant portion of every board be composed of women and people from other historically underrepresented groups (e.g. marginalized by gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or sexuality). And we will require every corporation to complete an annual report that gives the compensation, gender, and racial composition of the board and employees.
Would you—and how would you—propose to strengthen protections for people who need accommodations to do their jobs while pregnant or who are discriminated against because of their pregnancies at work?
Yes. We must end the discrimination against women in the workforce. No one should be denied a job, fired, passed over for promotion, or in any way discriminated against due to their pregnancy, and every workplace in America should make reasonable accommodations for their employees regarding pregnancy. When we are in office we will have a Department of Labor that is deeply committed to workers’ rights and to eliminating discrimination everywhere it exists in the workplace.
We will also require employers provide at least six months of paid family leave to parents, and require paid medical leave and sick days so all workers who are pregnant can attend doctor appointments and pregnancy classes without risk of losing hours or wages.
Additionally, Bernie will establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.” When Bernie is President he will fight to make sure workers cannot be fired “at will” and will sign a “just cause” law to protect workers and their constitutional right to speak out and organize in their workplaces.
This project was published on Jan. 28, 2020.