House and Senate Democrats Unveil Landmark Legislation to Protect Workers’ Right to Organize

May 2, 2019
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education and Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House and Senate Democrats introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Actcomprehensive legislation to strengthen protections for workers’ right to organize a union and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. As wage inequality continues to leave workers and middle-class families behind, this legislation would empower millions of Americans to stand together and ensure hardworking people are getting their fair share of economic growth.

recent study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that unions have consistently provided workers with a 10- to 20-percent wage boost over their non-union counterparts over the past eight decades.

In the House, the PRO Act was introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor; Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-24), chairwoman of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee; Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09), vice chair of the Education and Labor Committee; Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-02).

The Senate companion was introduced Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

Specifically, the PRO Act would:

  • 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.  

“America’s workers are the backbone of our economy and the foundation of our strength, organizing and mobilizing over generations for higher wages, better health care, safer working conditions and stronger retirement security for everyone,” said Speaker Pelosi.  “Our House Democratic Majority is For The People, and is proud to protect every working American’s freedom to negotiate better wages, working conditions and futures – because every worker deserves a fair shot to succeed in today’s economy.  We salute the relentless, persistent leadership of Chairman Bobby Scott in advancing this critical legislation to respect the dignity and protect the economic security of the men and women of labor.”

“As corporations and the wealthiest few reap the biggest benefits of the Trump-GOP tax law, wages remain stagnant, economic inequality deepens, and American workers are left behind. Unions have long fought for American workers and helped families reach the middle class, strengthening their ability to bargain for fair wages and safe working conditions. These days, big corporate special interests, backed by Congressional Republicans, are ramping up their attacks on Americans’ right to organize, silencing the voices of hardworking Americans trying to make ends meet. I proudly support the PRO Act because it returns rights to workers and restores the power of unions and collective bargaining. This bill is a critical step towards protecting American workers and dismantling the rigged system that undermines workers’ freedoms,” said Senate Democratic Leader Schumer.

“Evidence and experience demonstrate that labor unions are one of the most powerful tools workers have to improve the standard of living for themselves and their families. However, there are currently no meaningful penalties for predatory corporations that use unlawful tactics to discourage workers from organizing a union,” said Chairman Scott. “The PRO Act is a comprehensive proposal to ensure that workers have the right to stand together and negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.”

“Unions helped create the middle class in this country, but decades of attacks by corporate special interests have left many workers struggling to make ends meet and without a voice to advocate for themselves,” said Senator Murray. “Our economy should work for everyone, not just corporate CEOs and billionaires—and that’s why I’m proud to introduce the PRO Act to strengthen workers’ bargaining power and their right to join a union to advocate for safer working conditions, better pay, and a secure retirement.”

“The PRO Act will go a long way toward amending and strengthening the National Labor Relations Act and empowering our nation’s dedicated workforce. The right to join a union is internationally recognized, but here in the U.S., a combination of weak labor laws, employer opposition and hostility, and relentless political attacks on union members has driven membership down to historic lows. This legislation will help ensure that workers have strong bargaining rights and are able to defend themselves against unscrupulous employers,” said Congresswoman Wilson.  

“In the face of increasingly aggressive employer attempts to prevent workers from forming unions, we should update worker protections to reinforce the rights of all workers to band together and fight for better pay and safe working conditions,” said Senator Brown. “We cannot address inequality in this country unless workers get more power in the workplace, and this bill would help them do that.”

"“Under GOP rule, we have seen countless policy changes that have resulted in an economy of inequality and instability for our country’s most vulnerable workers. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act will help reverse the years of damage done by policies stripping workers of their right to unite and bargain for themselves. I am proud to co-lead this legislation that will restore fairness to an economy that has turned its back on the working class and strengthen federal laws to protect workers’ rights,” said Congresswoman Jayapal.

“For decades, unions have paved the road to the middle class for workers across our country,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation will give workers the tools to bargain fairly and defend their rights in the workplace. I will continue to stand up for Nevada’s hardworking families and their right to organize.” 

“I’m a career union organizer who knows first-hand the transformative power that comes with the ability to organize,” said Congressman Levin. “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.”

“The Protecting the Right to Organize Act takes long overdue steps to improve the quality of life for workers and their families," said Congressman Boyle. "Workers must have the freedom to stand together and negotiate for fair pay and not be retaliated against or fired for the simple act of seeking to join a union. This legislation ensures that workers can negotiate directly with the company that functionally controls the conditions of their employment, including their wages, hours and benefits."

The PRO Act was introduced with 100 House cosponsors, and 40 Senate cosponsors.

To read the fact sheet of the PRO Act, click here.

To read the section by section on the PRO Act, click here.

To read the full text of the PRO Act, click here.

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