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May 8, 2019

UFCW Calls for Congress to Strengthen Rights of American Workers to Join a Union and Protect Good Jobs

Ahead of Congressional Hearing, UFCW Urges Passage of PRO Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s House Education & Labor Committee hearing on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act follows the bill’s introduction by House and Senate Democrats last week and highlights the need for Congress to expand protections for workers to exercise their rights to join a union and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. As one of the leading national voices, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“As corporations and billionaires continue to thrive, stagnant wages and anti-worker policies around the country are leaving millions of American workers behind.

“We need to rebuild the middle class and reverse decades of income inequality and that starts with unions. For generations, unions have helped hard-working Americans stand together for higher wages, affordable healthcare, and a secure retirement. The time is now for Congress to pass the PRO Act to protect the rights of workers to join a union and negotiate for the better life they have earned and deserve.”

BACKGROUND

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is a bill that will expand protections for workers to exercise their rights to join a union and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. Workers who join a union earn higher wages and receive stronger healthcare protections than non-union workers:

  • On average, a union worker earns over 13 percent more than a non-union worker with similar education, occupation, and experience in the same sector.
  • Women union members earn 30 percent more than those in non-union workplaces.
  • Workers who are represented by a union are 27 percent more likely to be offered health insurance through work, and nearly five times as likely to have defined-benefit pensions.

In order to help grow the middle class and protect the right of workers to join a union, Congress must strengthen worker protections under federal law. To help achieve that, the PRO Act would:

  • Increase transparency by requiring employers to post a notice in the workplace of workers’ rights and responsibilities under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
  • Authorize civil monetary penalties to deter violations of the NLRA.
  • Improve remedies for workers who are retaliated against for exercising their rights to join a union or engage in protected activities—including swift temporary reinstatement, liquidated damages, and the ability to bring cases directly to federal court.
  • Expand coverage of who is deemed an employee under the NLRA to prevent the misclassification of workers as independent contractors.
  • Facilitate dispute resolution by requiring mediation and arbitration procedures to help unions and employers conclude a first collective-bargaining agreement.
  • Strengthen the right of workers to strike for basic workplace improvements.
  • Ensure that the National Labor Relations Board’s orders are enforced in a timely manner.
  • Protect the right of workers, whether in a union or not, to engage in collective actions, such as employment-related class action litigation.

Passing the PRO Act is also key to strengthening employer accountability. Currently, the NLRA lacks basic enforcement tools such as civil penalties to deter violations or adequate remedies when workers face unlawful retaliation.

Facing trivial consequences for non-compliance, employers are free to deploy unlawful tactics to deter workers from voting in favor of a union, or to create delays to avoid reaching a first labor agreement as a way to frustrate workers’ rights. The NLRA has few tools to deter persistent violations—such as firing workers who support forming a union.  This has contributed to the erosion of union density, which has decreased from 33.2 percent of the total workforce in 1956 to only 10.5 percent in 2018.