The House of Representatives has approved the PRO Act that would provide protections for workers trying to organize, a measure that is a major legislative priority for the labor movement in this Congress.
The bill passed Tuesday with a 225-206 vote, with five Republicans joining Democrats in favor of it.
Protecting the Right to Organize Act — PRO Act — would finally begin to level a playing field that is unfairly tilted toward big business and management, making union organizing drives and elections unreasonably difficult.
"The PRO Act would protect and empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize a bargain," Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, told NPR in a recent interview. "It's a game changer. If you really want to correct inequality in this country — wages and wealth inequality, opportunity and inequality of power — passing the PRO Act is absolutely essential to doing that."
Here are four provisions in the PRO Act:
1. So-called right-to-work laws in more than two dozen states allow workers in union-represented workplaces to opt out of the union, and not pay union dues. At the same time, such workers are still covered under the wage and benefits provisions of the union contract. The PRO Act would allow unions to override such laws and collect dues from those who opt out yet still receive the benefits of the union, in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining and administration of the contract.
2. Employee interference and influence in union elections would be forbidden. Company-sponsored meetings — with mandatory attendance — are often used to lobby against a union organizing drive. Such meetings would be illegal. Additionally, employees would be able to cast a ballot in union organizing elections at a location away from company property.
3. Often, even successful union organizing drives fail to result in an agreement on a first contract between labor and management. The PRO Act would remedy that by allowing newly certified unions to seek arbitration and mediation to settle such impasses in negotiations.
4. It would establish monetary penalties for companies and executives that violate workers' rights. Corporate directors and other officers of the company could also be held liable.
With the American Rescue Plan now passed and much-needed immediate relief coming to working people and those in need, it is time we focus on passing the PRO Act to ensure workers can prosper long after we recover from the pandemic.