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People hold placards during a protest in support of Amazon workers in Union Square, New York on February 20, 2021.

People hold placards during a protest in support of Amazon workers in Union Square, New York on February 20, 2021. (Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

Progressive Groups Mark May Day With Rallies Urging Passage of PRO Act

"The fight for the PRO Act is a fight for a future of dignity for all workers," said Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York.

Andrea Germanos

A coalition of over 40 progressive organizations on Saturday rallied online and in person to support the PRO Act—legislation that would strengthen workers' right to organize among other pro-worker provisions.

Groups behind the May Day actions include MoveOn, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Working Families Party.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act passed the House in March but has not yet faced a vote in the upper chamber, where it confronts the 60-vote legislative filibuster and no support from three Democrats—Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), and Mark Warner (Va.). 

The event description for an online rally Saturday calls the PRO Act "a sweeping overhaul of the rules of our economy that would empower workers and require real accountability when corporations try to take advantage of employees." Speakers at the event included Democratic Reps. Kati Porter (Calif) and Jamal Bowman (N.Y.) and Thea Riofrancos, an organizer for Democratic Socialists of America's (DSA) Green New Deal Campaign Committee.

Bowman framed the PRO Act as "a fight for a future of dignity for all workers—where workers have a say in what happens in the workplace; where they are treated as people, not as machines; and where their humanity takes precedence over at-all-costs productivity."

"It is a way to fight back against the plantation capitalist system that is oppressing us all," Bowman continued. "But it cannot be passed unless we fight. We were given a mandate to fight, consistently and relentlessly, for legislation just like this—so we need to be steadfast in our fight for the PRO Act, for the abolition of the filibuster, and for the values that can bring about a better tomorrow for ourselves, our kids, and our grandchildren."

DSA is also boosting its call for the legislation, declaring in a video: "Workers made the world, now we will save it."

The group has already pushed for the legislation with over 750,000 phone calls to voters and legislators in the states with holdout senators, DSA said in a statement Saturday. That effort has been worth it, the group said, attributing previous calls to Sens. Angus King (I- Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to having flipped their PRO Act opposition to support.

The trio of holdout senators were targeted of some of the in-person rallies Saturday:

The White House-backed (pdf) legislation has drawn support from a diverse range of groups and economists like those at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

In a fact sheet released in February, EPI summarized the proposal's benefits:

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act addresses many of the major shortcomings with our current law. Passing the PRO Act would help restore workers' ability to organize with their co-workers and negotiate for better pay, benefits, and fairness on the job. Passing the PRO Act would also promote greater racial economic justice because unions and collective bargaining help shrink the Black–white wage gap and bring greater fairness to the workplace.

EPI also joined Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the AFL-CIO, and the National Employment Law Project this week in releasing a document that "examines the challenges of unionizing in the U.S. and explains how the PRO Act would be a corrective."

Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, put the legislation in the context of the coronavirus crisis.

"The Covid-19 pandemic cruelly exposed how severe inequality is in the United States, where many low-wage workers face hunger, suffer from inadequate healthcare, or risk losing their homes, while the affluent have recovered far more quickly and even thrived," Ganesan said in a statement.

"Passing the PRO Act would be a major step toward tackling inequality by protecting workers' rights," he said, "a key element in a just and human rights-based recovery."

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