American workers have a legal right to organize and form a union under federal labor law. Unfortunately, U.S. labor laws are some of the mostly weakly enforced among all industrialized nations, meaning anti-union employers too often take advantage of lax enforcement and violate labor law with little consequence.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, aims to change all of this, empowering workers to exercise their rights to organize and bargain collectively. The legislation passed the U.S. House in Feb. 2020, but then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to let it come to the Senate floor. With Democrats now in control of the Senate, the legislation is expected to move forward.
“U.S. labor law is in desperate need of an overhaul. It both needs updating to reflect the changing nature of our economy, and strengthening to ensure workers’ fundamental right to organize is protected.”
– SMART General President Joseph Sellers
“U.S. labor law is in desperate need of an overhaul,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers, “It both needs updating to reflect the changing nature of our economy, and strengthening to ensure workers’ fundamental right to organize is protected.”
The act would amend decades-old U.S. labor laws to give workers more power at work and add penalties for companies that violate labor law. Currently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has no authority to levy fines against companies that break the law, such as firing a worker who initiatives a union organizing drive.
The PRO Act would also:
- Help ensure workers who win union regognition can reach a first contract quickly.
- End employers’ ability to hire permanent replacements to punish striking workers.
- Enhance the NLRB’s power to fine companies that violate labor law, up to $50,000 per violation.
- Weaken so-called “right-to-work” laws in 27 states that allow employees who benefit from union contracts to choose not to join or pay union dues.
- Grant collective bargaining rights to hundreds of thousands of workers who currently don’t have them.
- Allow more workers currently classified (or mis-classified…) as contractors to be considered employees for purposes of union organizing, opening the door for “gig workers” at companies like Uber and DoorDash to join or form unions.
“The PRO Act is a generational opportunity that will transform America’s labor landscape and marshal economic recovery for working people,” wrote AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in an op-ed that appeared on CNN.com in January 2021. “The PRO Act is also an economic stimulus bill. Unions give more of us the collective power to win better pay and safer working conditions, putting additional money in workers’ pockets, driving demand and creating jobs.”
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