Trumka: The PRO Act Is Our Next Frontier

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at a bipartisan press conference of congressional, labor and civil rights leaders in advance of House passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act:

Good morning, everyone.

Together, we will make the PRO Act the law of the land.

All of us agree that a union card is the single best tool working people have in the fight to win a fair share of the value we create every day.

The right to freely and fairly organize is a patriotic belief, not a partisan one. Union members vote for both political parties and we live in red and blue states. Unionism transcends ideology, and it transcends any one issue.

It strengthens civil rights. It makes us safer on the job. It creates fairer workplaces. It builds a stronger economy.

In an era of extreme polarization, nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of labor unions. Seriously, think about how hard it is to find something more than 50 percent—let alone 65 percent—that the country agrees on.

It’s clear: labor unifies America. So it’s not surprising that nearly half of non-unionized workers say they would vote to join a union today if given the chance. That's 60 million people knocking at our doors. The PRO Act would welcome them in.

It would make sure that workers can form a union if they want to, free from employer interference and coercion.

The very scare tactics being deployed by Amazon managers in Alabama today.

The type of behavior Joe Biden called out in his historic video.

The PRO Act would end the worst practices of employers, like hiring permanent replacements to punish striking workers. Like forcing workers to sit through union-bashing sessions. Like firing workers who have the courage to speak up.

And the PRO would do something else: it would finally ban right to work once and for all. Right to work is nothing more than a racist relic of the Jim Crow era designed to divide us. And we plan to put it in the ash heap of history.

But none of this will be easy.

For decades, labor law reform has been neglected as the National Labor Relations Act has been weakened. Anti-worker politicians and big businesses have made it harder to exercise the right to collectively bargain.

And for decades—too many legislators elected by union members with union might—have failed to pass a single bill to stop the bleeding.

That ends now. The days of defense are over.

This coalition—of worker and civil rights, of Republicans and Democrats, of union members from sea to shining sea—is ready to go on offense.

Our opponents know it. And we see them panicking.

In President Biden, we have a champion who—more than any of his recent predecessors—understands that “labor” isn’t just another constituency group that exists only during campaign cycles.

And his rhetoric on the campaign trail has carried into the Oval Office.

This is a president who jumps at the chance to tell a roomful of CEOs that he’s a union guy. Last Sunday, he released the most pro-union statement of any president since FDR. And just yesterday, he chose to double down, issuing a statement of administration policy in support of the PRO Act.

To borrow a slightly-tweaked quote from Joe Biden: This is a big freakin’ deal.

It's time to Build Back Better with Unions.

The PRO Act is our next frontier. And our next fight is in the United States Senate. Not just for the PRO Act. But for infrastructure. For democracy reform. And civil rights. The PRO Act is the bill that makes everything else possible.

Of course, there will be no shortage of skeptics who say passage of the PRO Act is impossible.

But we will not let anyone define our capacity or diminish our collective power.

We’ve been patient long enough. No more excuses. No more reasons why we can’t do it.

The PRO Act is our litmus test. If progress is delayed or denied yet again, the suffering of the past year will only get worse.

But if our leaders step up to the plate and deliver generational change—the change we voted for—we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before.

Over the past year, America has witnessed the resilience and courage of working people. The nurse. The grocery clerk. The firefighter. The people who are holding this country together, healing it and ready to rebuild it. A union protects your safety and dignity on the job. Every working person deserves the protections that come with a union card.

Pass the PRO Act and more Americans will carry that power in their pocket every day.

God bless you. And God bless America’s working people.