EVERETT (Aug. 6, 2019) — Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate’s labor committee, met with local union organizers and leaders on Monday for a roundtable discussion hosted by the Snohomish & Island County Labor Council about the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Murray is sponsoring this legislation to strengthen workers’ freedom to join unions and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.
Representatives of Laborers Local 292, Machinists District Council 751, Office and Professional Employees Local 8, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, and Teamsters Local 38 discussed the legislation and shared stories demonstrating why its passage is so important. Anti-union bullying, drawn out contract negotiations, and other tactics that corporations routinely use to deny workers their freedom to form unions are harming all workers, union and non-union alike, the unionists told Murray.
“I know here in Everett you know the importance of unions,” Murray said. “A lot of people talk about the economy being great, but I see too many people where it’s not working — people who go to work every day and don’t get the salaries they need and don’t get the support they need. Today we have an economy that works for those at the top and who invest in Wall Street, and corporations that are nameless. But the average workers are feeling less and less secure in this economy and we need to right that.”
Murray and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-7th) are lead sponsors on the PRO Act. All seven of Washington’s Democratic congressional delegation are among the 190 co-sponsors of the PRO Act, and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is among the 40 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate. Not a single Republican in Congress is co-sponsoring the PRO Act.
At the 2019 Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO held in SeaTac in July, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the PRO Act “the most important labor legislation of my lifetime.”
“It stands for Protecting the Right to Organize,” he said. “In other words, letting us do our job without interference from anti-union employers or anti-worker politicians… It would make the fight fair again.”
BACKGROUND ON THE PRO ACT — As wage inequality continues to leave workers and middle-class families behind, the PRO Act would empower millions of Americans to stand together and ensure hardworking people are getting their fair share of economic growth. Today, unlike previous generations of Americans, they clearly are not getting their share.
A 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.
“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,” Murray said. “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.”
“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,” Jayapal said. “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 lower class and strengthen federal laws to protect workers’ rights.”
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 mandatory 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.
The PRO Act is endorsed by AFL-CIO; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Service Employees International Union; Communications Workers of America; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; United Steelworkers; AFSCME; United Food and Commercial Workers International; American Federation of Musicians; United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry; International Longshoremen’s Association; Professional Aviation Safety Specialists; International Association of Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; American Federation of Government Employees; International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots; Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Utility Workers Union of America, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists; Guild of Italian American Actors.
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.
Charlotte Murry, Executive Administrator of the Snohomish & Island County Labor Council, contributed to this story.