February 05, 2021

Van Hollen, Cardin Seek Protection for the Right to Organize and Make our Economy Work for Everyone

New legislation addresses growing income inequality by strengthening federal laws that protect workers’ right to join a union and negotiate for higher wages and better benefits

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, 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 right to organize and collectively bargain is fundamentally entrenched in our democratic principles,” said Senator Van Hollen. “And throughout our history, these rights have bettered the lives of countless Americans and have improved working conditions and pay for all. We must continue fighting to protect and expand these rights to ensure employees in Maryland and across the country are guaranteed the ability to form unions and negotiate fair terms for their employment – especially as workers face the economic fallout of COVID-19. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this sweeping legislation to do just that, and I urge the Senate to take it up immediately.”

“We had the biggest middle class in our Nation’s history when unions were strong. But a half-century assault on unions and collective bargaining has taken its toll. For several decade now, wages for working Americans have not kept pace with productivity gains or inflation. The middle class is shrinking and we have, instead, the working poor. People who work shouldn’t be poor. The PRO Act will reverse the trends that have been decimating working families and communities in Maryland and across America,” said Senator Cardin.

“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 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.

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.

In addition to Senators Van Hollen, Cardin, and Murray, the PRO Act is cosponsored by Senators Schumer (D-N.Y.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Booker (D-N.J.), Warren (D-Mass.), Wyden (D-Ore.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Murphy (D-Conn.), Hassan (D-N.H.), Casey (D-Pa.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Reed (D-R.I.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Kaine (D-Va.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Brown (D-Ohio), Luján (D-N.M.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Markey (D-Mass.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Schatz (D-HI), Smith (D-Minn.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Carper (D-Del.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Coons (D-Del.), Rosen (D-Nev.), Tester (D-Mont.), Peters (D-Mich.), Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Padilla (D-Calif.).

To read the fact sheet of the PRO Act, click HERE.

To read the section by section on the PRO Act, click HERE.

To read the full text of the PRO Act, click HERE.