WASHINGTON, February 28, 2023 – *Labor Leaders to Hold Press Event at 3:15 p.m. in U.S. Capitol (SVC 208-09). Watch the livestream here.*
Today, a bipartisan group of House and Senate Members introduced the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2023(H.R. 20), a comprehensive proposal to protect workers’ right to come together and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces.
The House bill was introduced by the Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01). The Senate companion was introduced by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Large corporations and the wealthy continue to capture the rewards of a growing economy while working families and middle-class Americans are left behind. From 1979 to 2020, annual wages for the bottom 90 percent of households increased just 26 percent, while average incomes for the wealthiest 1 percent increased more than 160 percent.
Unions are critical to growing a strong middle class and creating an economy that rewards hardworking people. Studies show that union members earn, on average, 10 percent more than those with similar education, occupation, and experience in a non-union workplace.
Public support for labor unions is also surging. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans approve of labor unions—the highest that Gallup has recorded since 1965. Despite growing support for unions, decades of anti-union attacks have made it harder for workers to organize. Union membership has fallen to a new low of 10.1 percent in 2022. The PRO Act restores fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal law that protects workers’ right to join a union and bargain for higher pay, better benefits, and safer workplaces.
“Over the last year, the American economy has recovered at a record pace, thanks to the hard work and resilience of our nation’s workers. To ensure that everyone can benefit from this recovery, we must focus on building our economy from the bottom up and the middle out. Unions are essential for building a strong middle class and improving the lives of workers and families. Regrettably, for too long, workers have suffered from anti-union attacks and toothless labor laws that undermined their right to form a union,” said Ranking Member Scott.“As a historic number of Americans put their support behind labor unions, Congress has an urgent responsibility to ensure that workers can join a union and negotiate for higher pay, better benefits, and safer workplaces. Passing the PRO Act is the most critical step we can take this Congress to achieve that goal. I urge my House and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in advancing the most significant update for workers’ labor organizing rights in more than eight decades.”
“The PRO Act will protect American workers and ensure that employers are held to fair standards. This landmark legislation will promote tremendous progress for workers’ empowerment and the economy,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “I’m proud to support this legislation that bolsters American workers’ right to organize.”
“The right to organize is sacred. The basic American contract has always been that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide a comfortable living for your family and retire with dignity. Throughout our country’s history, unions have made this contract a reality. The PRO Act will empower workers, rebuild the middle class and create an economy that works for everyone – not just the privileged few – and House Democrats will always support every American’s right to organize,” said Leader Jeffries.
“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when too many workers are falling further and further behind, we need to make it easier for workers to exercise their constitutional right to form a union and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” said Chair Sanders. “We need to hold CEOs accountable for flagrantly violating labor laws, illegally firing pro-union workers, and closing down pro-union shops. If we are going to reverse the 40-year decline of the middle class, reduce the widening gap between the billionaire class and everyone else, and take on the unprecedented level of corporate greed in America, we have got to rebuild the trade union movement. That is what the PRO Act is all about and I am proud to be introducing this bill in the Senate.”
“America thrives when our working class thrives. It is vital that we provide a voice to hard-working Americans and empower them as they bargain for better wages, benefits, and safer working conditions,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “After years of stagnant funding, last Congress I helped secure the largest increase for the National Labor Relations Board in decades and have remained committed to putting power back in the hands of workers and establishing a clearer path to the middle class. But Congress need to go further. The PRO Act is more than just labor reform – it’s a civil rights necessity. This legislation empowers marginalized workers – women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ Community. It protects workers regardless of where they are born, their background, or their industry. Hard-working Americans deserve a shot at a comfortable life with a good-paying job. And this gives them that opportunity.”
“The PRO Act is how we level the playing field. It is how we stop the intimidation, the lies. This is how we let workers, not wealthy corporations, decide for themselves if they want the power of a union,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler.
The PRO Act protects the basic right to join a union:
- · Holds employers accountable for violating workers’ rights by authorizing meaningful penalties, facilitating initial collective bargaining agreements, and closing loopholes that allow employers to misclassify their employees as supervisors and independent contractors.
- · Empowers workers to exercise their right to organize by strengthening support for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights, protecting workers’ right to support secondary boycotts, ensuring workers can collect “fair share” fees, and authorizing a private right of action for violation of workers’ rights.
- · Secures free, fair, and safe union elections by preventing employers from interfering in union elections, prohibiting captive audience meetings, and requiring employers to be transparent with their workers.
For the bill text of the PRO Act, click here.