Oct 05, 2022
A broad coalition of progressive advocacy groups and unions representing 24 million workers on Wednesday doubled down on its demand for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to hold a vote on landmark labor reform legislation before next month's pivotal midterm elections.
"Workers across the country can't afford to keep waiting for the Senate to take action."
At issue is the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a popular bill that aims to push U.S. labor law in a more worker-friendly direction. If passed, the legislation would ban anti-union "right-to-work" laws and nullify those enacted by GOP officials in 27 states, strengthen penalties against employers who engage in unlawful union-busting, and make it easier for newly unionized workers to finalize their first collective bargaining agreement, among other reforms.
"As potentially illegal harassment, retaliation, and union-busting by Amazon, Starbucks, and Apple continues to make headlines," the Worker Power Coalition said in a statement, "workers across the country can't afford to keep waiting for the Senate to take action."
The coalition--made up of a few dozen unions, environmental justice groups, and left-leaning research and advocacy organizations--spent the past seven weeks mobilizing in key battleground states.
Members met with Senate Democrats in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia--the first five are states where the outcomes of hotly contested races will help determine control of the upper chamber. They also participated in direct actions in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, three states in which Democratic Senate candidates are vying to unseat or replace Republicans.
"We must do everything possible to support the growing number of workers who are joining together to improve their workplaces," said Communications Workers of America secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens.
"Our labor laws are outdated and broken. Employers flagrantly violate workers' rights, hold mandatory anti-union meetings, and intimidate and even fire workers for organizing," Steffens noted. "Workers need for the Senate to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act now so they can organize for safer jobs, better working conditions, and higher pay."
Although the House approved the PRO Act earlier this year, the bill has yet to make it to the desk of President Joe Biden due to a combination of Republican obstructionism and Democratic acquiescence. In keeping with his pledge to be the "most pro-union president" in U.S. history, Biden has endorsed the measure and urged lawmakers to pass it.
The biggest barrier is the Senate's 60-vote filibuster, an anti-democratic rule giving the GOP minority veto power over most legislation--something that conservative Senate Democrats, including Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), have refused to eliminate.
But even if Democrats managed to repeal the filibuster, the question remains whether corporate-friendly senators in the party would support the PRO Act. Sinema, her Arizona colleague Mark Kelly, and Mark Warner of Virginia--three of the Democratic lawmakers visited recently by the Worker Power Coalition--have not yet co-sponsored the pro-worker legislation.
According to the coalition, Kelly and other vulnerable Senate Democrats--including Michael Bennet in Colorado, Raphael Warnock in Georgia, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, and Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire--ought to welcome a chance to vote for the PRO Act, since doing so could help them differentiate themselves from their GOP opponents.
\u201cTennessee has been a "right-to-work" state since 1947, but Republicans want to put it in their state constitution after seeing the recent (unsuccessful) effort to overturn RTW in Virginia, and because Congressional Democrats want to ban RTW via the PRO Act\nhttps://t.co/5SB95wdFcC\u201d— Rachel Cohen (@Rachel Cohen) 1664459523
A fresh poll commissioned by the coalition found that more than 80% of voters under 40 say that one of the key issues motivating them to vote is a desire for improved workers' rights. Data from the survey shows that this demographic is driving Democrats' better-than-expected performance in polls with just 35 days to go until November 8.
"In the face of right-wing extremism seeking to undermine our democracy, it gives me hope that people across the country are fighting back--including workers standing up against big corporations, exercising democracy in the workplace," said Indivisible Project co-founder and co-executive director Leah Greenberg.
"People are desperate for Democratic senators to stand side-by-side with them in this struggle and take action," Greenberg added. "Passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act would level the playing field for these workers, and show people which side the Senate Democrats are on."
In a letter sent to Schumer last month, the coalition implored the powerful New York Democrat to "bring the PRO Act to a vote as soon as possible."
"The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the need for workers to have a voice on their safety and working conditions," the groups wrote. "Now, inflation is causing economic hardship for working people around the nation."
"The time is now for Congress to enact commonsense reforms to our labor laws and give workers a real voice at their jobs," they added. "The PRO Act is the best chance in decades to shift power away from corporate interests and to everyday Americans who work to provide for their families."
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