Norcross, Top Democrats Introduce Bill to Protect Workers’ Right to Organize and Make our Economy Work for Everyone
February 4, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) – a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 351 – joined House and Senate Democrats in introducing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, comprehensive labor legislation to protect workers’ right to stand together and bargain for fairer wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces.
The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that our economy is benefitting the biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals—while failing workers, and in particular women and workers of color. While wages are stagnant for the bottom 50% of workers, the top one percent of earners have seen their wages grow by 205 percent. This worsening income inequality has the deepest impact on women and workers of color, who disproportionately have jobs with lower wages and fewer, if any, benefits.
Unions are critical to increasing wages and addressing growing income inequality – with studies showing that union members earn on average 19 percent more than those with similar education, occupation, and experience in a non-union workplace. The PRO Act would reverse years of attacks on unions and restore fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal laws that protect workers’ right to join a union and bargain for higher wages and better benefits.
“I know how important it is to give workers a voice and protect them from unfair labor practices because I lived it,” said Congressman Norcross, a former business agent for the IBEW Local 351 and President of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO. “I fought for New Jerseyans at the negotiating table for decades. Workers win when they can band together and collectively bargain for safer workplaces, higher wages and better benefits. Today, my colleagues and I took a major leap forward in restoring fairness to an economy that’s rigged against workers and building back better. As we continue to move forward with the Biden-Harris Administration, I urge the Senate to act swiftly and pass the PRO Act to level the playing field for American workers and their families.”
The bill was introduced by House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chair Patty Murray (D-WA). The PRO Act has been endorsed by the Labor Caucus, which Norcross founded and co-chairs.
“The decades-long assault on workers’ rights – led by special interests in state legislatures, courts, and employers across the country – has suppressed union membership and eroded America’s middle class,” said Chairman Scott. “The Protecting the Right to Organize Act is a major step toward ensuring that workers can exercise their basic right to form a union and collectively bargain for higher pay, safer working conditions, and decent benefits – including paid leave, quality health care, and a secure retirement. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the urgent need for Congress to protect and strengthen workers’ rights. Over the past year, workers across the country have been forced to work in unsafe conditions for insufficient pay, because they lacked the ability to stand together and negotiate with their employer. The PRO Act is an opportunity to honor the contributions of the many frontline workers during the pandemic and American workers nationwide who continue to uphold our economy. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass the most significant upgrade to U.S. labor rights in more than eight decades.”
“After decades of wealthy corporations undermining our labor laws and four years of the Trump Administration’s attacks on workers’ rights, the PRO Act will restore workers’ ability to join together to demand their fair share of the economic growth they drive. This legislation is critical to supporting workers during this pandemic and to building back an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the very top,” said Senator Murray. “It’s time we pass the PRO Act and protect workers’ right to stand together and fight for better pay, quality health care, a safer workplace, and a secure retirement.”
“The men and women of labor are the backbone of our economy and the foundation of our strength,” said Speaker Pelosi. “With American workers seeing their lives and livelihoods devastated by the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis, the re-introduction of the PRO Act is more important than ever. Democrats will always fight to defend the sacred promise to protect hard-working families while safeguarding the fundamental right to join a union. America’s middle class has a union label on it, and as the Democratic Congress works with the new Biden-Harris Administration to Build Back Better, we will do so in a way that tilts the playing field back to American workers and their families.”
“America has a severe income inequality crisis – working families are losing ground while the rich are getting richer every day – and expanding the number of workers in unions is a fundamental part of the solution,” said Leader Schumer. “The PRO Act helps workers to better organize and bargain for fair wages and benefits – and restores a measure of balance to our economy, which is now wildly tilted to favor big business and special interests’ profits. The union movement has been the most successful pathway to the middle class in all of American history and I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to put more money in the pockets of hard-working Americans, creating a foundation that provides livable wages to our families.”
The PRO Act would protect the right to organize and collectively bargain by:
- Bolstering remedies and punishing violations of workers’ rights through authorizing meaningful penalties for employers that violate workers’ rights, strengthening support for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights, and authorizing a private right of action for violation of workers’ rights.
- Strengthening workers’ right to join together and negotiate for better working conditions by enhancing workers’ right to support secondary boycotts, ensuring workers can collect “fair share” fees, modernizing the union election process, and facilitating initial collective bargaining agreements.
- Restoring fairness to an economy rigged against workers by closing loopholes that allow employers to misclassify their employees as supervisors and independent contractors and increasing transparency in labor-management relations.
For a fact sheet on the PRO Act, click here.
For a section-by-section of the PRO Act, click here.
For the bill text of the PRO Act, click here.