ACTION ALERT: Protect Your Right to Organize in the Workplace with the PRO Act
April 14, 2022
As we move forward from this global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that employees are able to make their voices heard. Unionization is an essential tool in the fight to close the gender and racial pay gap, as well as to ensure physical safety and financial security in the workplace. Employees of Amazon and Starbucks have been making strides in their unionization efforts, but still face barriers created by current legislation. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act aims to remove those barriers by protecting all employees’ basic right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining for better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
Why it Matters:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, women without a union contract made 17 cents less per dollar on average than men without a union contract, compared to women with union memberships, who made only 10 cents less per dollar on average than union men. A pay gap may still exist in union jobs when taking averages, but as the late Richard Trumka, the late president of the AFL-CIO, noted, “[i]f you have a union contract, everyone is making the same wages” for the same job, and that while “[t]he law doesn’t always protect them, their contracts do”.
Many companies, however, don’t look favorably on the power unions hold over them. Last year, during Amazon’s fight against the push to unionize its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, the company launched a website with the tagline “DoItWithoutDues”. This site implies repeatedly that it would be a waste to pay dues to a union when Amazon already pays a $15 minimum wage and has a competitive benefits package. The site, of course, does not mention Amazon’s unreasonably high expectations of employees and astronomically high turnover rate. A union would be able to negotiate more acceptable working conditions and environment, and provide job security that Amazon currently does not. In a historic vote on April 1st, 2022, the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island became the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States, following a wave of successful and proposed unionization efforts by Starbucks employees across the country.
California’s recently-passed Proposition 22, a bill drafted by companies like Uber and Instacart, excludes app-based gig workers in the state from eligibility for employee status. The PRO Act would override that law and give those workers the protections they deserve by classifying them as employees of the companies they work for. It is important to note here that despite the claims of many Prop 22 advocates, being classified as an employee does not automatically mean that a worker cannot have flexible hours.
Current labor law severely limits the power of unions to serve their members, and gives employers free rein to use union-busting tactics that unions have little recourse against. The PRO Act gives power back to workers by strengthening unions and penalizing employer union-busting activity.
A few weeks ago, in his State of the Union message, President Biden called on Congress to pass the PRO Act, along with the Paycheck Fairness Act and a call to increase minimum wage, in order to remove barriers to well-paying jobs for all workers. The PRO Act passed the House on March 9th, 2021 in a 225-206 vote. In the Senate, it remains in committee even over a year later, and will likely need 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. In the current system, a single Republican objection to a Democratic bill (or vice versa) can stop a bill from ever reaching a final floor vote. This is exactly what Republican Senators have been threatening to do with the PRO Act, and we need your support to stop this undemocratic process from halting the progress of any more essential legislation.
What Can I Do?
Contact your senators to voice your support of the PRO Act and to encourage them to vote in favor of its passage. If they are already a cosponsor, be sure to thank them and encourage them to continue fighting for this bill. If they are not a cosponsor, emphasize that they represent you and the rest of their constituents, and that you would urge them to reconsider their opposition to the act.
How Do I Do It?
You can find your Senators’ contact information here at Senate.gov, and a list of current cosponsors can be found on the bill’s page on Congress.gov. If your senator’s name is not on the list of cosponsors, it is especially important that you contact them to ask for their support.
What Do I Say?
“I am calling to urge Senator [NAME] to vote in favor of the PRO Act. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how little power our essential workers have, whether in a traditional warehouse or in app-based gig work. Voicing support and voting for this bill is the first step to ensuring that all workers are afforded a safe and equitable workplace. The next step is to abolish the filibuster, an essential step to ensure that current and future legislation is given a fair chance at passing.”