The Stand

WSLC applauds introduction of PRO Act in Congress

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SEATTLE (Feb. 4, 2021) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO — the state’s largest union organization representing more than 600 union locals and some 500,000 rank-and-file members — today celebrated the reintroduction of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation is a generational opportunity to restore the freedom to form unions and change the power dynamics in America to benefit working families.

Last year, Washington’s Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell co-sponsored the PRO Act, and Reps. Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith and then-Rep. Denny Heck all co-sponsored and voted for it. This year, the WSLC is urging each of them — and new Rep. Marilyn Strickland — to continue supporting the PRO Act. The WSLC will also be asking Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers to reconsider their past opposition.

The PRO Act is comprehensive labor legislation that would strengthen workers’ right to organize a union and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, but was blocked by an anti-labor majority in the Senate. Last fall, this bill motivated union members across the nation to mobilize for a pro-worker trifecta in the U.S. House, Senate and White House. Working people won a mandate and now they want passage of the PRO Act.

“Our labor laws are woefully outdated and no longer empower working people to have their voices heard,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. “The National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935, but it has been chipped away ever since. Now, forming a union is unacceptably difficult, and for some, it’s impossible. Studies have shown that 60 million Americans would join a union today if they could. The PRO Act is their chance to regain their freedom to choose a union. It’s time to pass the PRO Act and build back better with unions!”

“After decades of wealthy corporations undermining our labor laws and four years of the Trump Administration’s attacks on workers’ rights, the PRO Act will restore workers’ ability to join together to demand their fair share of the economic growth they drive,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “This legislation is critical to supporting workers in Washington state and across the country during this pandemic and to building back an economy that works for everyone — not just those at the very top. It’s time we pass the PRO Act and protect workers’ right to stand together and fight for better pay, quality health care, a safer workplace, and a secure retirement.”

The most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression, the PRO Act will:

●  Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain.
●  Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.
●  End employers’ practice of punishing striking workers by hiring permanent replacements. Speaking up for labor rights is within every worker’s rights—and workers shouldn’t lose our jobs for it.
●  Hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining.
●  Repeal “right to work” laws — divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era — that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces.
●  Create pathways for workers to form unions, without fear, in newer industries like Big Tech.

“Inequality has skyrocketed because union membership has dwindled and policymakers have failed to pass pro-worker labor laws,” Brown said. ” The PRO Act is more than labor law reform, it’s civil rights legislation. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are or what industry we work in.”

For more information about the PRO Act, visit www.aflcio.org.

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