July 26, 2021
The Honorable Jeff Merkley
Hart Senate Office Building, 313
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Senator Ron Wyden
Dirksen Senate Office Building, 221
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Earl Blumenauer
Longworth House Office Building, 1111
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Suzanne Bonamici
Rayburn House Office Building, 2231
Washington, D.C. 20515
RE: VOTE YES on H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021
Dear Members of Congress,
We urge you to vote YES on H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021. Economic security is inextricably linked to civil and human rights, and enabling working people to exercise the right to form unions and engage in meaningful collective bargaining is one of the most effective, efficient, and comprehensive ways to promote economic security for individuals and their families.
The freedom to join a union helps all working people support their communities and the ones they love because when unions are strong, they set wage standards for entire industries and occupations, they make wages more equal within occupations, and they help close racial and gender wage gaps. For decades, however, that right has been eroding as employers exploit weaknesses in the current law to interfere with workers’ rights—and face no real consequences for doing so. The result has been stagnant wages, unsafe workplaces, and rising inequality, all of which have been exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PRO Act is a crucial step toward restoring workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively by streamlining the process for forming a union, ensuring that new unions are able to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement, and holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights. By bringing workers’ collective power to the bargaining table, unions are able to win better wages and benefits for all working people. On average, a worker covered by a union contract earns 11.2% more in wages than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same sector. This boost in wages is even higher for workers of color—unionized Black workers earn 13.7% more than their nonunionized peers and unionized Latinx workers earn 20.1% more than their nonunionized peers.
Additionally, there is a huge gap between the share of workers with union representation (12.1%) and the share of workers who would like to have a union and a voice on the job (48%). The PRO Act would take a major step forward in closing that gap.
Though the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was meant to encourage collective bargaining, in the 80 years since its passage, nearly every amendment to the law has made it harder for working people to form unions. This allows employers to take advantage of weaknesses in the law to undermine the rights of working people, including firing pro-union workers, holding mandatory meetings to bash unions, and refusing to bargain a first contract after a union is formed. These hostile behaviors, which occur at the expense of the employee, are often without consequence for the employer. The PRO Act seeks to remedy this imbalance by bolstering workers’ rights and creating accountability for employers that engage in anti-union behavior.
The PRO Act would reform existing labor laws and protect the right to join a union by:
Imposing stronger remedies when employers interfere with workers’ rights. The PRO Act would institute civil penalties for violations of the NLRA and would also require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to go to court for an injunction to immediately reinstate terminated workers if the NLRB believes an employer has illegally retaliated against workers for union activity. The PRO Act would also give workers the right to go to court on their own to seek relief, bringing labor law in line with other workplace laws that allow for a private right of action.
Strengthening workers’ right to join a union and collectively bargain over working conditions. The PRO Act would prohibit employers from holding mandatory anti-union meetings and engaging in other coercive anti-union tactics. The law would establish a process for reaching the first agreement when workers organize, employing mediation, and then, if necessary, binding arbitration. The PRO Act would also allow employers and unions to agree upon a “fair share” clause requiring all workers who are covered by the collective bargaining agreement to contribute a fair share fee towards the cost of bargaining and administering the agreement, even in so-called “right-to-work” states. The PRO Act will also help level the playing field for workers by repealing the prohibition on secondary boycotts and prohibiting employers from firing workers during lawful strikes.
Unrigging the rules that are tilted against workers. The PRO Act tightens the definitions of independent contractor and supervisor to help prevent misclassification and make sure that all eligible workers can unionize if they choose to do so. The PRO Act also makes clear that workers can have more than one employer, and that both employers need to engage in collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment that they control or influence. To create transparency in labor-management relations, the PRO Act would require employers to post notices that inform workers of their NRLA rights and to disclose contracts with consultants hired to persuade workers on how to exercise their rights.
The time for the PRO Act is long overdue, and we cannot delay in working toward its passage. The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the importance of unions giving workers a collective voice in the workplace. During the crisis, unionized workers have been able to secure enhanced safety measures, additional premium pay, paid sick time, and a say in the terms of furloughs or work-share arrangements to save jobs.
Through organizing, bargaining, litigation, legislative, and political advocacy, unions and the labor movement have played a significant role in advancing the rights and interests of people of color and women in the workplace and in our society overall. Unions can best play this role when the right of workers to organize and bargain is fully protected and can be freely exercised.
Working people in America need – and have a right to enjoy – the benefits that result from collective bargaining and union membership. We urge you to vote yes on H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021, to help ensure that working people are paid fairly, treated with dignity, and have a voice on the job.
Chair Deborah Kafoury
Commissioner Susheel Jayapal, District 2
Commissioner Sharon Meieran, District 1
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, District 3
Commissioner Lori Stegmann, District 4