Protecting the Right to Organize Act
The PRO Act would penalize bad employers and make it easier to organize
On Thursday, Democrats introduced a set of bills that will rewrite American labor law and strengthen the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The set of bills, known as Protecting the Right to Organize Act would finally take an important step towards making it easier to organize a union, not harder.
The bill, which has 140 co-sponsors in the House and the Senate, was introduced by Education and Labor Chairman Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Here are the highlights:
- Establish penalties on predatory corporations that violate workers’ rights and combat misclassification of workers as supervisors and independent contractors.
- Strengthen workers’ right to strike for basic workplace improvements, including higher wages and better working conditions.
- Create a mediation and arbitration process to ensure corporations and newly formed unions reach a first contract.
- Authorize unions and employers to negotiate agreements that allow unions to collect fair-share fees that cover the costs of representation.
- Streamline the National Labor Relation Board’s (NLRB) procedures to secure worker freedoms and effectively prevent violations.
- Protect the integrity of union elections against coercive captive audience meetings.
Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. said in a statement "Workers deserve a safe workplace, the ability to stand together and negotiate better working conditions and to live a middle-class lifestyle. This bill would beef up the NLRA so that workers seeking to organize a union and negotiate higher wages and better benefits will be protected.”
With the Presidential election heating up, worker issues are finally getting talked about. A recent study by Five Thirty-Eight found that union members could be the most important group in the 2020 general election. They found that the swing from Obama to Trump was enough to hand three key states to Trump and find that the Democratic nominee would have a difficult time winning in 2020 without the support of these union members.
“I’m a career union organizer who knows first-hand the transformative power that comes with the ability to organize,” said Congressman Andy Levin, who worked as an organizer for SEIU and as the assistant director of organizing for the AFL-CIO before he was elected to Congress. “Income inequality is at historic levels, and working people suffer in an unfair economy that favors the ultra-rich. One crucial way to level the playing field is by restoring unions to the organizing force they once were—before special interest-funded attacks on labor law crippled union membership. The PRO Act is the vital, urgent solution that would result in higher wages, safer working conditions and a fairer economy.”
If Democrats want to win back the White House in 2020, they must show union members that voted for Trump that they have a vision for dealing with important issues like income inequality and a deck that is stacked against working people. While the PRO Act has little chance of being signed into law, the successful and symbolic passage of the bill in Congress would show working people the difference between the Trump agenda and the Democrats agenda.