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Senator Bernie Sanders

Senator Sanders Introduces Bill to Strengthen Unions

The Workplace Democracy Act would provide stiff penalities for employers who union bust and outlaw Right to Work

Brian Young's picture
May 10, 2018

It’s no secret that unions across the nation are under attack. The Supreme Court is hearing the Janus v AFSCME case which could severely weaken public sector unions, employers have more power than ever with an anti-worker National Labor Relations Board, and 28 states that are now Right to Work. Yesterday, four Senators proposed a bill to change some of that.

The new bill, called The Workplace Democracy Act, would expedite the formation process for unions, allowing workers to sign up to be represented rather than being elected into membership and expedite timelines for negotiation between unions and companies. The bill is being introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and has the support of Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The bill is being introduced to help raise wages in a stagnant economy. While unemployment is extremely low, wages have not increased. Many people are now working two or three jobs to make ends meet.  While many are not speaking up, those that do advocate for better conditions by joining a union, face a steep hill since many of the laws have been written to allow employers to interfere and stop an organizing drive.

The new bill would also create penalties for employers that actively seek to stop an organizing drive. Under the bill, employers who fire employees for organizing or meddle in the process could face substantial fines. The threat of losing your job while organizing is a real concern that often prevents employees from speaking up. A 2017 study from the Economic Policy Institute found that 54% of workers have been threatened with loss of their job if they voted to unionize.

“We must no longer tolerate CEOs and managers who intimidate, threaten or fire pro-union workers, who threaten to move plants to China if their workers vote in favor of a union and who refuse to negotiate a first contract with workers who have voted to join unions,” said Senator Sanders. “If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country.”

Finally, the bill would ban Right to Work, preventing unions from being forced to represent employees who do not pay dues. This means that the bill would overturn a bad decision by the Supreme Court in the Janus v AFSCME case.

“When workers’ rights to collective bargaining are attacked and undermined, corporations have enormous power over their workers and can keep wages so low that even full-time employees are still living in poverty,” said Senator Gillibrand. “That is not how our economy is supposed to work. We need to start rewarding work again in this country, and that means making sure every worker has the right to join together to fight for the pay and protections they deserve. I am proud to fight for this important legislation with Senator Sanders, and I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to join us in standing up for our workers.”

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