In the coming weeks, the United States House of Representative is expected to pass the most labor-friendly legislation to have come through in many years – the PRO Act. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) indicated that the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (HR 2474) will get a floor vote in the House before President’s Day.
Originally introduced by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) in May 2019, the PRO Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 to expand protections for workers and unions. According to the Congress, the bill would:
- override “right-to-work” laws by allowing unions and employers to negotiate “fair share” clauses that allow the union to charge non-members for the costs of their representation
- revise the definition of “employee” and “supervisor” to prevent employers from removing workers’ labor law protections;
- expand unfair labor practices (ULPs) to include prohibitions against replacement of or discrimination against workers who participate in strikes;
- make it an unfair labor practice to require or coerce employees to attend employer meetings designed to discourage union membership;
- permit workers to participate in collective or class action litigation;
- allow injunctions against employers engaging in unfair labor practices involving discharge or serious economic harm to an employee;
- expand penalties for labor law violations, including interference with the National Labor Relations Board or causing serious economic harm to an employee; and
- allow any worker to bring a civil action suit for harm caused by labor law violations or ULPs.
These expanded protections address concerns that employers and management are increasingly brazen in attempts to obstruct workers’ rights to organize after a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that more than 40% of employers whose workers vote to unionize are charged with ULPs aimed at undermining union elections and retaliating against union supporters. The larger the company, the worse the intimidation.
The study found that when there are more that 60 workers attempting to organize, ULP claims against the employer rise to 50%. Another 30% of employers are charged with allegations of “threats, surveillance or harassment of workers.” Under the current NLRA, the NLRB cannot force employers who are charged with ULPs to pay fines or back pay to workers. The PRO Act would change that, giving the NLRB the enforcement rights necessary to change anti-union employers’ dirty practices with real consequences for breaking the law.
The PRO Act would also prevent the ability of employers to abuse the “independent contractor” classification to avoid federal labor law protections for their employees, a serious organizing concern for the burgeoning gig-economy.
The PRO Act has 218 cosponsors in the House, broken down by 215 Democrats and 3 Republicans, and including 18 Representatives within Local 150’s jurisdiction.
While the bill is expected to be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, the PRO Act is a reminder that the Labor Movement still has some friends in Washington that are willing to fight for our right to organize.
You can view the full bill by clicking here.