House Passes Sweeping, Bipartisan Labor Rights Overhaul Following Golden-led Push for Vote
After leading a letter signed by more than 100 colleagues to House leadership calling for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to be brought to the House floor for a vote, the House passed the bipartisan bill with the support of Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) today.
The PRO Act empowers workers by strengthening protections against employer retaliation and ensuring they can join together to form unions and collectively bargain for higher pay, better benefits, and safer workplaces. The bill would prohibit employers from interfering with union elections with union busting activities, similar to those recently employed against nurses organizing at Maine Medical Center.
“Since 2017, I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet union workers all over Maine. I’ve visited them at their places of work or at their union halls: shipbuilders at BIW; steelworkers in paper mills at Baileyville, Madawaska, Skowhegan and Rumford; teachers at our public schools, state employees, professional firefighters and law enforcement officers; electricians, iron workers, plumbers and pipefitters, operating engineers, painters, and carpenters in the trades; nurses in our hospitals; and lobstermen on their boats, ” said Golden in his statement. “They are skilled workers who take great pride in the job they do, the things they make, or the services they provide. It’s such an honor to represent them and to support their right to be a member of a union. I want to ensure that more people have the opportunity to exercise that right, and that’s why I so proudly support the PRO Act.”
Among other provisions, the PRO Act would:
- Prevent employers from interfering with union elections;
- Enable newly formed unions and employers to obtain mediation and arbitration if the parties do not agree to a contract within 100 days of union recognition or certification, so that employers can’t nullify union election results by refusing to negotiate or agree to new contract;
- Authorize the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to exact meaningful penalties on companies who violate workers’ rights;
- Prohibit companies from permanently replacing workers who participate in a strike;
- Give the NLRB the power to enforce its own decisions like other federal agencies, rather than waiting for enforcement from the Court of Appeals;
- Allow workers to seek redress in court if they are unsatisfied with an NLRB ruling on an employer’s interference in or retaliation for labor organizing activities; and
- Ensure employees who suffer retaliation for participating in labor organizing activity have the ability to immediately seek an injunction to be reinstated.
You can learn more about what’s in the PRO Act here.
Golden’s full statement can be read below:
“Throughout my entire life people have been saying that it has been getting harder and harder to make ends meet, let alone get ahead.
“From 1979 to 2019, the wages of the top one percent grew nearly 160 percent, and the wages of the bottom 90 percent combined grew by just 26 percent. During the same 40 years, the rate of union jobs was reduced by close to half its previous strength.
“Despite these losses, union workers still earn approximately 11 percent higher wages than their nonunion counterparts today, and they are more likely to receive quality, affordable healthcare coverage and retirement benefits.
“But as most union workers know, and many that want to join a union understand, it’s not just about the money. It’s also about respect and dignity in the workplace. I hear union workers speak with a strong and unified voice to demand more input into how the job gets done. They tell me that when workers’ experience is valued and incorporated on the job, it results in the job getting done better. With members of union workforces more likely to speak up about workplace safety without fear of punishment, it also tends to result in the job being done safer.
“Unions also provide quality apprenticeship and training opportunities. These programs help prepare the next generation of young men and women in Maine who will build ships, operate our mills, work in the trades, protect our communities, and care for our family members.
“Given all this, it can be hard to understand why union representation has fallen in America. I believe the answer is rather simple: many corporations are actively hostile to them, and others fail to see the value they can bring to the workplace. Employers spend hundreds of millions per year on consultants to provide “union avoidance” services, and around the country employers blatantly violate workers’ legal rights in efforts to forestall or defeat union elections by committing illegal acts of coercion, threatening, or retaliation against workers. Sadly, this is just as true in Maine as it is elsewhere in the country. The PRO Act would help put a stop to these abusive practices and make it easier for workers to decide whether or not they want to organize a union.
“I have been clear since I first ran for Congress that I am firmly pro-union. I will consistently stand in support of workers’ rights to organize a union and bargain for fair wages, healthcare, retirement benefits, and safer workplaces. And I will oppose any effort to take those rights away.
“Since 2017, I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet union workers all over Maine. I’ve visited them at their places of work or at their union halls: shipbuilders at BIW; steelworkers in paper mills at Baileyville, Madawaska, Skowhegan and Rumford; teachers at our public schools, state employees, professional firefighters and law enforcement officers; electricians, iron workers, plumbers and pipefitters, operating engineers, painters, and carpenters in the trades; nurses in our hospitals; and lobstermen on their boats. They are skilled workers who take great pride in the job they do, the things they make, or the services they provide. It’s such an honor to represent them and to support their right to be a member of a union. I want to ensure that more people have the opportunity to exercise that right, and that’s why I so proudly support the PRO Act.
“Having voted for this legislation today I want to thank all of Maine’s union workers for letting me get to know you and learn about the important work that you do. I also want you to know that I don’t see you, your jobs, or support for your union as a partisan issue. The labor movement belongs to all of you - Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and those tired of politics. I will continue supporting your right to collectively bargain and work to support your job.” – Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02)