Today, members of Congress, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), proposed the Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act, legislation designed to strengthen protections for working people who join together to make positive change at work and make sure corporations that violate working people's rights face real consequences. In recent decades, workers' wages have been stagnant while too many employers take advantage of weak worker protection laws to slow down or stop working people from joining together to improve their lives. This legislation is aimed at reversing that trend.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka described the legislation:
The WAGE Act puts corporations who abuse working people on notice that there will be real penalties for lawbreaking. Penalties like triple back pay, strong civil penalties and preliminary reinstatement.
Murray went further:
Too often, as workers are underpaid, overworked and treated unfairly on the job, some companies are doing everything they can to prevent them from having a voice in the workplace. The WAGE Act would strengthen protections for all workers and it would finally crack down on employers who break the law when workers exercise their basic right to collective action.
The WAGE Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to strengthen protections for working people who organize and promote change through collective action. It would increase protections for all workers, union or not, and will help open up the pathways to equal pay, increased safety and higher wages. Specifically the law would increase workers' rights and protections by:
- Tripling the back pay that employers must pay to workers who are fired or retaliated against by their employers, regardless of immigration status.
- Providing workers with a private right of action to bring suit to recover monetary damages and attorneys’ fees in federal district court, just as they can under civil rights laws.
- Providing for federal court injunctions to immediately return fired workers to their jobs.
- Ensuring employers will be jointly responsible for violations affecting workers supplied by another employer.
Furthermore, the WAGE Act would put an end to the perverse incentives for employers to interfere with workers’ rights by:
- Establishing civil penalties up to $50,000 for employers that commit unfair labor practices and doubled penalties for repeat violations. This would bring the NLRA in line with other workplace laws.
- Giving the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) authority to impose penalties on officers and directors of employer violators.
- Allowing the board to issue a bargaining order upon finding that an employer prevented a free and fair election, provided that a majority of employees signed authorization cards within the previous 12 months.
- Setting a 30-day time limit for employers to challenge an NLRB decision, after which the NLRB decision becomes final and binding unless a court directs otherwise. The NLRB could then go directly to district court to enforce its orders.