Scratch beneath the surface of the headlines touting a booming economy, and you’ll find workers who, decade after decade, have seen meager gains and who have had their voices to join a union – the most powerful mechanism to gain a foothold in the middle class – silenced.
Instead, what’s clearer than ever is that only some are benefitting in our economy: the super-wealthy and corporations.
The “Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act” (H.R. 2474), which the House of Representatives passed 224-194 late Thursday, will level the playing field by strengthening federal labor law so that private-sector workers have more protections and a greater ability to organize and bargain for livable wages, hours and health and retirement benefits. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces difficult odds.
While the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was enacted to encourage collective bargaining, the law has been gutted over the years. Today, companies routinely flout the law with few or no consequences. They fire workers for attempting to form unions, require workers to attend meetings to dissuade them from joining unions and often stall or outright refuse to bargain first contracts.
The PRO Act would increase penalties for violations of workers’ rights, strengthen support for workers who suffer retaliation, prohibit employers from interfering in union elections and require dispute resolution to improve the ability of unions to secure contracts. It also would allow employers and unions to include fair-share language in contracts.
Some AFSCME members who work in the private sector industry and would benefit from the passage of the PRO Act include emergency medical services professionals, nurses, behavioral health workers and others.
By strengthening workers’ ability to join unions, more Americans will be able to experience the union difference – both the day-to-day and lifelong advantages that being a union member provides. Those benefits are being sought by a growing number of workers, who see unions as the path toward greater security and dignity. Strong union density helps build the middle class, making our economy work for all Americans, not just the wealthy.
AFSCME strongly supports passage of the PRO Act. AFSCME members believe that both private and public sector workers deserve the right to organize and bargain collectively to improve their working conditions.
Our union also continues to push for passage of the “Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act” (H.R. 3463), which would establish a minimum nationwide standard of state collective bargaining rights for public service workers.