By Ian Elder
This week, the House took a major step towards promoting democracy and fairness in the workplace by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
If signed into law, the bill would make major, long-overdue changes in labor law that would enable workers to harness their collective power to reduce inequality, decrease poverty, and increase respect on the job. Securing passage in the Senate will be a challenge but, given the PRO Act’s potential to better the lives of millions of working families by shifting the balance of power in their favor, it is worth fighting hard for.
Unions are critical to building the middle class, reducing inequality, and creating a more robust and responsive democracy. Women and people of color in particular benefit from union membership. Unfortunately, current labor law makes it excruciatingly difficult for workers to organize a union. Bosses frequently undermine union elections by threatening and intimidating their employees. Some of the tactics they use are legal—such as the coercive anti-union meetings Amazon has been forcing its employees to attend at its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Other tactics—such as firing outspoken union supporters— are illegal but extremely common because labor law does not provide meaningful penalties for such actions. Even after a union gains recognition, employers are often able to avoid negotiating a first contract for years. These factors help explain why, even though unions have a 65 percent approval rating nationwide, only around 12 percent of workers actually have a union.
The PRO Act would fix these problems in federal labor law by protecting workers’ right to collective action, holding employers accountable for breaking the law, ensuring free and fair union elections, and creating a fair process for a first union contract. It would also end corrosive “right to work” laws which have created a race to the bottom in labor standards and made it especially hard for workers in the South to take action to improve their working conditions.
At JMA, we’re focused on building a worker-centered economy. We strongly support this legislation which would make ground-breaking progress towards this goal and help create an environment in which workers and communities can better organize to hold corporations accountable.
To learn more about the PRO Act:
Take action by signing this petition in support of the PRO Act wtih the Communications Workers of America.
Watch this video from IUPAT to learn more about 10 ways the PRO Act would transform workers’ rights and build worker power.
Watch the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor’s video introducing the PRO Act.
Ian Elder is a national senior researcher at Jobs to Move America.
Image credit: Paul Weaver/Flickr