Workers are demanding change. At the AFL-CIO’s 2019 District Meetings held across the country, union members and local leaders selected labor law reform as the most important public policy challenge facing our nation. For too long, politicians have paid lip service to the labor movement’s demand that Congress modernize and strengthen the laws protecting our freedom to join together and negotiate for better pay and a voice on the job.
As a result of their inaction, the gap between rich and poor has reached record levels. With union density reaching historic lows, fewer and fewer Americans are getting the benefits of a union contract: higher wages, better health care and a more secure retirement. The latest research shows that union density has been a direct cause of the rise and fall of inequality over the past century.
Despite the challenges, more and more Americans want to join unions. A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that nearly half of all nonunion workers would join a union if they could, and public approval of unions (at 64%) is the highest it has been in nearly 50 years.
Now it is time for Congress to replace words with action and pass comprehensive labor law reform. In the spring of 2019, Rep. Bobby Scott (Va.) and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474, S. 1306), landmark legislation that modernizes the National Labor Relations Act and makes it possible for workers to exercise their freedom to organize and bargain. The PRO Act stiffens penalties for employer violations, ends “right to work” laws and guarantees bargaining rights for working people who are misclassified as independent contractors. It also protects secondary picketing and the right to strike and establishes a process for helping newly organized workers achieve a first contract.
By the end of August 2019, nearly 200 representatives and 41 senators had agreed to sign onto the PRO Act as co-sponsors. Similarly, congressional support is building for the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 3463, S. 1970) and the Public Safety Employer–Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 1154, S. 1394), which has had bipartisan backing since it was first introduced in 2007. These bills would guarantee collective bargaining rights for hardworking public employees in every state and every jurisdiction.
We urge the leadership of the House of Representatives to make labor law reform a priority in the 116th Congress. No candidate for Congress or the White House should expect the support of organized labor if they are not prepared to stand with workers in their fight for justice by endorsing, co-sponsoring and voting for these important bills.