Speech | Labor Law

Trumka Calls PRO Act 2020's Most Significant Piece of Legislation

Washington, D.C.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at a press conference in support of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act: 

Good afternoon. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi, for your leadership. And thank you, Jennifer (Womack), for your courage. 

How many of you saw Verizon’s commercial on Super Bowl Sunday? It captured the duty, responsibility and humanity of America’s first responders...a fitting tribute to those who risk their lives for our safety. And while it was a nice reminder about the importance of our connection to each other—it didn’t tell the whole story.

When Jennifer and her coworkers tried to form one of the most personal and powerful bonds possible—a union as members of the Communications Workers of America—Verizon said no. 

You see, 5G might be able to do a lot of exciting things, but it cannot fix our broken and outdated labor laws. 

At Verizon and elsewhere—in more than 40 percent of all union organizing drives—employers break the law. 

They lie. They coerce. In some cases, they fire union supporters. 

Workers are forced to attend mandatory meetings with one item on the agenda: make people afraid to exercise our freedom to form a union. 

And these messages of fear and intimidation are coming from the very people who control our paychecks, how much time we can spend with our family, whether we will have a job in six months, a year. 

That’s how you end up with an economy where more than 60 million people would vote to join a union, but only one in ten workers actually have one. 

Workers want in. Is it any wonder why? 

Simply put, workers in unions bargain for higher wages and are much more likely to have health care and a pension. The union advantage is even greater for people of color. Unionized workers have a real say in critical workplace issues like time off to care for a loved one, the deployment of technology and protection from discrimination.

The National Labor Relations Act—passed in 1935—was a beacon of the New Deal. It ushered in a new era of workers organizing to win equality—our share of the American Dream. 

That wave of worker voice changed the direction of America and built the greatest middle class the world has ever known. 

But the NLRA has only been weakened in the 85 years since—and an entire union-busting industry now works nonstop to block workers from exercising the freedom that the law is supposed to protect.  

Now is the time—in fact, it’s way past time—to protect the right to organize for workers in the 21st century. 

The PRO Act is how we do it. It is not an exaggeration to say this is the most significant piece of legislation that will come before the House this year. 

It protects the right to strike. It trumps the “right to work” sham. It ensures a process for reaching a first contract once a union is recognized, provides substantial relief for workers whose rights have been violated and creates a true deterrent, so employers think twice before violating the law.

It also removes the employer’s standing in representation cases. The choice to form a union must belong to Jennifer and her coworkers, not Verizon and its executives. 

So we call on the House to pass the PRO Act. We call on all members of Congress—Republican and Democrat—to support it. We call on the Senate to follow suit. And we call on President Trump to sign this bill into law. 

And to those who would oppose, delay or derail this legislation—do not ask the labor movement for a dollar or a door knock. We won’t be coming. 

Stand with us today. And we’ll stand with you tomorrow.

Jennifer deserves nothing less. America’s workers deserve nothing less. 

Thank you very much.

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