Democrats: Which side are you on?

They won’t be able to pass it until they retake the U.S. Senate, but Democrats in Congress have begun lining up behind a dramatic reform of the National Labor Relations Act, America’s basic (and very weak) labor law. Known as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, the bill would:

  • Repeal state ‘right-to-work’ laws;
  • End prohibitions on secondary “solidarity“ strikes; protect workers’ right to strike intermittently; and bar the permanent replacement of striking workers;
  • Threaten meaningful monetary penalties when employers terminate workers for union involvement, and require the government to immediately seek an injunction to reinstate the fired employee; impose liability on corporate directors and officers for such violations; and let workers sue in court when employers retaliate against them for supporting a union;
  • Require mediation and arbitration if union and employer can’t agree on a first contract;
  • Ban employers from forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings, and from “misclassifying” employees as independent contractors.

HR 2474, the House version of the bill, has 130 cosponsors, including Suzanne Bonamici and Peter DeFazio of Oregon. The Senate version, S.1306, is sponsored by Patty Murray of Washington and cosponsored by Washington’s Maria Cantwell, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and 37 others. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka testified in favor of the bill at a House subcommittee hearing May 8.

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