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Home » Officer Columns » Secretary-Treasurer » The PRO Act Would Level the Playing Field for Organizing

The PRO Act Would Level the Playing Field for Organizing

  -  AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

Organizing is the lifeblood of any union, and with our current labor law, it is the most difficult task we face as a labor organization. It takes commitment, tenacity, and abundant resources to be successful. Organizing new workplaces brings the benefits of collective bargaining to newly organized workers, which grows our membership and creates increased union density in our industry. More members (higher union density) has a direct correlation to our union’s power by creating leverage at the bargaining table. Anyone who has engaged in bargaining knows it’s all about power. 

Recently, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) attempted to organize 6,000 Amazon employees at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama. The stakes were high. If successful, this organizing effort could have opened the door to RWDSU organizing the 1.3 million strong Amazon workforce. Think about the bargaining leverage the union would have if all Amazon workers were organized. But alas, this organizing effort was unsuccessful. 

Such a defeat would seem to indicate that a clear majority of Amazon workers are happy and content with their current wages and working conditions, but all may not be as it seems. 

RWDSU claims that the employer used anti-union tactics to discourage workers from voting in favor of union representation. Stuart Applebaum, president of RWDSU stated that Amazon employees “feared they would lose their jobs if they voted for the union” and that Amazon held “mandatory captive audience meetings.” RWDSU has filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, though under the current law Amazon will face no meaningful penalties for their bad behavior. 

Joining a union and working under the protections of a union contract has provided a pathway for workers to address inequities in the workplace and improve their standard of living. However, for decades, labor has been under attack. 

On March 9, 2021 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), to help reverse the effects of the attacks by leveling the playing field between employers and employees. Among other things, the bill empowers employees and limits what companies can do to disrupt union organizing campaigns. Also, it expands various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace. 

At President Biden’s joint April 28 address to Congress, he called for the passage of the PRO Act. “The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America, that’s what it says. And, it recognizes something I’ve always said. The guys and women on Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class,” he said. “And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act, the PRO Act, and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize.” 

The Pro Act is part of the AFL-CIO’s “Workers First Agenda.” If it passes in the Senate, it will move to President Biden for his signature, which he has indicated he will sign. In short, the PRO Act will: 

  • •Empower workers to organize and bargain. 
  • •Hold corporations accountable for union-busting. 
  • •Repeal “right to work” laws. 

It’s time to level the playing field for US workers. Call or write your senators and urge them to pass the PRO Act! 

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