AT THE FOREFRONT OF CHANGE
Americans are used to thinking about Democrats as pro-labor and Republicans as pro-business, but a massive realignment is occurring in Washington. Democrats have become the party of multinational corporations and union bosses, while Republicans are increasingly the party of small businesses and workers’ rights. Senator Rubio has been at the forefront of this change, whether by reshaping conservatives’ intellectual framework on labor issues or standing up for workers when no one else would.
RESTORING THE DIGNITY OF WORK
In 2018, Rubio wrote an article for the Atlantic arguing that “America needs to restore dignity of work.” He bucked two decades of free-market fundamentalism — on both the left and right — instead of reducing citizens to consumers and sending manufacturing jobs overseas had undermined the American Dream. Rubio followed up his article with a similar piece in First Things. Thought leaders were excited. “Can Marco Rubio help to break the partisan divide over the dignity of work?” wondered Jonathan Malesic in America Magazine.
FREE TO COMPETE
The rubber met the road in 2019, when Rubio introduced the Freedom to Compete Act, a bill to protect low-wage, entry-level workers from non-compete agreements that limit their employment opportunities and restrict their ability to negotiate for higher wages and benefits. In 2020, he introduced the Federal Skills Act to ensure qualified workers without bachelor’s degrees have a fair shot at obtaining federal jobs. And in 2022, Rubio and Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) called for Congress to legalize voluntary, non-confrontational employee involvement organizations and ensure workers have, at minimum, non-voting seats on corporate boards.
SPEAKING FOR WORKERS
Rubio has been a voice for workers when few else would. In 2021, he made headlines by withholding support from Amazon management against attempts to unionize among Amazon employees. In 2022, railroad workers threatened to strike unless they received paid sick leave. President Joe Biden and rail union bosses asked Congress to force the workers into a bad deal. Rubio refused and voted to give the workers seven days of paid sick leave instead. It prompted journalist Sohrab Ahmari to note that the senator “continues to walk the walk on pro-labor politics, unlike [others] who claim to speak for the ‘multiracial working class.'”