Padilla Introduces PRO Act to Protect Workers’ Right to Organize￼
Legislation would protect workers’ right to come together and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and a bipartisan group of House and Senate members in introducing the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2023, a comprehensive proposal to protect workers’ right to come together and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces.
Large corporations and the wealthy continue to capture the rewards of a growing economy while working families and middle-class Americans are left behind. From 1979 to 2020, annual wages for the bottom 90 percent of households increased just 26 percent, while average incomes for the wealthiest 1 percent increased more than 160 percent.
Unions are critical to growing a strong middle class and creating an economy that works for everyone. Studies show that union members earn, on average, 10 percent more than those with similar education, occupation, and experience in a non-union workplace. Workers with union representation enjoy a significant pay premium compared to non-union workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports non-union workers earn just 85 percent of what unionized workers earn. Public support for labor unions is also surging—U.S. approval of labor unions is at its highest point since 1965, with 71 percent of Americans now supporting unions, according to a 2022 Gallup poll. Despite growing support for unions, decades of anti-union attacks have made it harder for workers to organize. Union membership has fallen to a new low of 10.1 percent in 2022. The PRO Act restores fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal laws that protects workers’ right to join a union and bargain for higher pay, better benefits, and safer workplaces.
“Every worker deserves access to the protections offered by unions, which help level the playing field and fight corporate greed,” said Senator Padilla. “Unions help workers achieve improved working conditions, living wages, and broader benefits. I am committed to ensuring Congress does its part to protect workers and make it easier for them to bargain for fair compensation for their work—that starts with passing the PRO Act.”
“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when too many workers are falling further and further behind, we need to make it easier for workers to exercise their constitutional right to form a union and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” said Chair Sanders. “We need to hold CEOs accountable for flagrantly violating labor laws, illegally firing pro-union workers, and closing down pro-union shops. If we are going to reverse the 40-year decline of the middle class, reduce the widening gap between the billionaire class and everyone else, and take on the unprecedented level of corporate greed in America, we have got to rebuild the trade union movement. That is what the PRO Act is all about and I am proud to be introducing this bill in the Senate.”
The House bill was introduced by the Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.-03) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.-01).
In addition to Padilla and Sanders, the Senate bill is also cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Fetterman (D-Penn.), Kyrsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn,), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The PRO Act protects the basic right to join a union:
- Holds employers accountable for violating workers’ rights by authorizing meaningful penalties, facilitating initial collective bargaining agreements, and closing loopholes that allow employers to misclassify their employees as supervisors and independent contractors.
- Empowers workers to exercise their right to organize by strengthening support for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights, protecting workers’ right to support secondary boycotts, ensuring workers can collect “fair share” fees, and authorizing a private right of action for violation of workers’ rights.
- Secures free, fair, and safe union elections by preventing employers from interfering in union elections, prohibiting captive audience meetings, and requiring employers to be transparent with their workers.
Senator Padilla is a strong advocate for corporate accountability and protecting workers’ rights. Padilla has pushed Congress to hold the wealthiest corporations accountable for corporate greed causing rising prices for Americans. Padilla joined his colleagues in reintroducing the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act. This legislation would support the right to unionize by prohibiting states from banning union security agreements through “right-to-work” laws. As a Los Angeles City Councilmember, Padilla also led the passage of a grocery worker retention ordinance.
For the bill text of the PRO Act, click here.
For a fact sheet on the PRO Act, click here.