“There is no way to build a greener, more inclusive economy without strong, thriving labor unions.”
By Andrea Germanos, staff writer, CommonDreams.org
Over 60 environmental groups on Wednesday urged Democratic lawmakers to support the sweeping pro-union PRO Act as a bold step towards advancing an economy supportive of “both people and the planet.”
Signed by organizations including ActionAid USA, NRDC, and Sunrise Movement, a new letter (pdf) supporting the legislation—set for a vote in the House Thursday—says increasing signs of the climate crisis and exploding wealth inequality are “parallel trends [that] reflect an economy built to serve the interests of a small group of the extremely wealthy and powerful, not people or the planet.”
Key to fixing that issue is “ensuring that working people have a voice in the economy and earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work,” says the letter. “There is no way to build a greener, more inclusive economy without strong, thriving labor unions.”
The legislation, formally called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, would help ensure that happens. As noted in measure’s official summary, the act:
- revises the definition of “employee” and “supervisor” to prevent employers from classifying employees as exempt from labor law protections;
- expands unfair labor practices to include prohibitions against replacement of or discrimination against workers who participate in strikes;
- makes it an unfair labor practice to require or coerce employees to attend employer meetings designed to discourage union membership, permits workers to participate in collective or class action litigation;
- allows injunctions against employers engaging in unfair labor practices involving discharge or serious economic harm to an employee;
- expands penalties for labor law violations, including interference with the National Labor Relations Board or causing serious economic harm to an employee; and
- allows any person to bring a civil action for harm caused by labor law violations or unfair labor practices.
“Our planet and our communities are under enormous threat,” the letter adds. “We must act urgently to confront the dangers imposed by climate change, including by ensuring that working people are treated fairly and helping lead the transition to a fair, green economy. The PRO Act would help advance that goal and help us rebuild our economy to function for both people and the planet. Therefore, we urge you to vote in favor of the PRO Act.”
The green groups’ call to House Democrats comes just days after over 100 other progressive advocacy groups representing labor, racial justice, and environmental issues similarly urged lawmakers to pass the PRO Act to help workers more easily collectively bargain and organize.
“Protecting workers’ rights through the PRO Act is essential to empowering workers to organize themselves and their communities,” Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement Tuesday. “Unions are key mobilizers of people to fight back against corporate interests and make our government more responsive to the interests of all people.”
“Unions are good for our communities and good for our democracy,” she said.
The PRO Act currently has 218 co-sponsors. According to The Hill, it counts leading Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden among its supporters.
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