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Home » Legislative Update » The PRO Act: the Logic Behind Labor Law Reform in 2021


The PRO Act: the Logic Behind Labor Law Reform in 2021

  -  AFM Legislative, Political, and Diversity Director

While we all know that organizing is the lifeblood of the American labor movement, bargaining that elusive first contract is always one of our biggest challenges. After four years of incessant anti-union political rhetoric designed to weaken trust in and break the back of organized labor, union leadership refused to fold. Instead, they have helped federal legislators draft pro labor legislation and mounted what would easily be considered the largest and most important political electoral campaign victory in organized labor’s history.

The results of the 2020 election of President Biden buttressed the unshakable drive behind union political organizing power, leading to pro labor wins in both the executive and legislative branches of American government. For the naysayers, these worker-driven changes will eventually mean more job security and greater personal financial stability.

With a focus on fortifying and updating the important fundamentals of labor law, the Biden Administration took immediate steps to strengthen the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). First, the NLRB general counsel was replaced. Secondly, labor leaders and their affiliate unions worked with the new majority in the 117th Congress to bring relief to the single and multiemployer pension plans that union plan participants and retirees deserve. All the while, they were also focused on advancing voting and civil rights in both HR1, the For the People Act and through fair and equitable treatment of all workers as outlined in the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, HR 842.

Now, the legislative focus has turned to strengthening labor’s organizing prowess through advancing and passing the PRO Act. The PRO Act restores the right of workers to freely and fairly form a union and bargain together for changes in the workplace. The PRO Act is landmark worker empowerment, civil rights, and economic stimulus legislation, and an essential part of any plan to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

This act has already passed the House of Representatives. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called it “a game changer,” noting the importance of giving the American worker an even stronger voice on the job. The focus is on determining exactly which Senate procedural process will get the $2.5 trillion infrastructure package, which contains the PRO Act, across the Senate finish line.

As America works to “build back better,” Congress and the Administration are coming out of this pandemic focused on an infrastructure jobs program designed to revive our devastated economy and help displaced American workers, including working musicians. More importantly, President Biden said, “worker power is not anti-business. It’s about creating economic growth [and] creating good-paying jobs.”

Similar to global reconstruction efforts after the economic destruction of WWII, American labor quickly switched from its wartime industrial footing to American and global reconstruction. Just as the labor movement pitched in to win the war, organized labor is now coming together with our government to lift our country out of the jaws of disaster. Similar to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Joe Biden and Congress recognize the good that can be done post disaster through the power of the purse. Not only are they rebuilding jobs but also putting back into American citizens’ pockets the hard-earned tax dollars they paid into the system to help sustain us through this crisis.

It was General Eisenhower who recognized the industrial might of organized labor which helped fuel the economy and win the war. In his September 17, 1952 speech in New York City to the American Federation of Labor he said: “Today in America, unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”

President Eisenhower’s words were just as insightful then as they are now. In this new age, the PRO Act and pushing labor law reform is the best way to fight this evil pandemic, update our labor laws, and strengthen unions by expanding our organizing and bargaining rights.

The PRO Act will empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and negotiate for better wages and working conditions. It will remove archaic barriers to organizing, increase worker protections, and strengthen the institutions that hold corporations accountable. It will repeal “right to work” laws that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits, and more dangerous workplaces.







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