Today, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Bobby Scott introduced the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 20) in the 118th Congress. EPI applauds the reintroduction of the PRO Act and urges Congress to pass this sorely needed legislation, bolstering workers’ freedom to join unions.
The evidence is clear: Workers want to join unions, but many are robbed of the opportunity because the barriers are too high. The share of U.S. workers represented by a union hit an all-time low in 2022, despite strong public support for unions and an enormous increase in union election petitions before the National Labor Relations Board.
The decline is in part because the decades-long, systematic attack on our foundational labor laws has created a hostile environment for workers seeking to organize. An EPI analysis found that employers were charged with violating federal law in 41.5% of union election campaigns, whether it’s firing, threatening, or otherwise retaliating against workers who dared to come together in their workplaces to bargain collectively. The penalties for violating current labor law are not a sufficient deterrent for employers infringing on workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. And that’s not even taking into account all of the perfectly legal union-busting and union avoidance tactics permitted under current labor law.
The PRO Act would help restore workers’ right to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. The PRO Act would streamline the process when workers form a union, ensure that they are successful in negotiating a first agreement, and hold employers accountable when they violate labor law. The PRO Act would also help advance racial economic justice because unions and collective bargaining help shrink the Black–white wage gap and bring greater fairness to the workplace. By giving working people the power to counteract rising corporate power and inequality, the PRO Act’s reforms are necessary to building an economy that works for everyone.