'Passing the PRO Act Is Not a Spectator Sport': AFL-CIO Leads National Day of Action

Organized labor advocates rallied in downtown Los Angeles on March 22, 2021 in solidarity with Amazon workers amid their historic unionization vote in Bessemer, Alabama. (Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

'Passing the PRO Act Is Not a Spectator Sport': AFL-CIO Leads National Day of Action

"Stronger unions mean higher wages, safer working conditions, and dignity for all people who work. The PRO Act is our first step to get there."

The AFL-CIO is encouraging people to call U.S. senators on Thursday to urge them to support the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a historic piece of legislation that would significantly strengthen workers' right to form unions and help reverse a decades-long assault on labor waged by corporations and their political allies.

"Passing the PRO Act is not a spectator sport. All of us must act--and act today by driving calls into the Senate," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said Thursday. "From Alabama to Alaska, we are going to make our case for an economic and political system that works for working people."

"The U.S. House of Representatives passed the PRO Act last year, but anti-worker legislators in the Senate blocked it," the AFL-CIO said in a statement. "Undeterred, working people fought to elect pro-worker lawmakers to the Senate, House, and White House. And we won."

"Lawmakers gave us their word they would make the PRO Act a top priority," the organization added. "It's time for them to keep that promise."

The PRO Act (pdf), as Natalie Shure wrote for The New Republic earlier this week, would "make more workers eligible for collective bargaining, make unions easier to organize, limit the power of management to sabotage the process and punish those who do more harshly, deliver speedier contracts, and lend existing unions more muscle."

The bill passed the House in March but has since run up against the Senate's 60-vote legislative filibuster, leading the AFL-CIO and many others to call for the weakening or elimination of the anti-democratic rule. Meanwhile, the Senate's Democratic caucus has not yet secured the 50 votes necessary to pass the legislation without Republican support in the event the filibuster is reformed or abolished.

"The most monumental pro-labor legislation since the 1930s is a few co-sponsors shy of a majority in the Senate, and it's tough to overstate what a big deal that is," wrote Shure. The PRO Act "promises to largely revert the United States back to the friendlier New Deal era of labor law, before postwar Republican majorities moved to significantly tamp down organized labor with the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act."

"While President [Joe] Biden has affirmed his strong support of the bill," Shure explained, "advocates will have to fight hard to clinch the Senate's five Democratic holdouts, let alone to nuke the filibuster so that 50 votes is enough to carry the day."

"Lawmakers gave us their word they would make the PRO Act a top priority. It's time for them to keep that promise."

The AFL-CIO has encouraged voters to put pressure on the five Democratic caucus members who have yet to back the PRO Act--Sens. Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Passage of the PRO Act would result in corporations being penalized for union-busting as well as a repeal of so-called "right to work" laws in states across the nation. As the Economic Policy Institute has documented, the decline in union membership since the middle of the 20th century has been mirrored by a growing share of income being taken by the top 10%.

Nora De La Cour explained in a Common Dreams essay published last month that "labor unions reduce inequality, promote cross-racial solidarity, and boost democratic participation."

Experts estimate the legislation "could double union density in the U.S.," which "could shift the political landscape in this country," Shure wrote. Organized workers, she noted, have greater access to progressive political education and more chances for meaningful political participation that furthers the class interests of working people.

"By securing the legal framework for a resurgent, militant labor movement, the PRO Act could bring staggeringly ambitious demands like Medicare for All within our collective reach," she added.

As the AFL-CIO said when promoting Thursday's phone blitz: "Stronger unions mean higher wages, safer working conditions, and dignity for all people who work. The PRO Act is our first step to get there."

In addition to Thursday's digital day of action, in-person events are being organized around the country for a National Week of Action between April 26 and May 1, concluding on International Workers' Day.

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