New York Attorney General Letitia James, as part of a coalition of 17 attorneys general, has called on the U.S. Senate to protect hardworking Americans by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021 (PRO Act). The PRO Act provides protections for workers trying to organize by strengthening and modernizing key parts of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which enshrines the fundamental rights to organize, unionize, and bargain collectively. In the letter, the multistate coalition highlights the urgent need to pass the PRO Act and urges the U.S. Senate to act to improve the lives of America’s working families.
“Unionizing is a core American right, and no business should be able to infringe on a worker’s ability to organize,” said Attorney General James. “Over the past year, we have been reminded of the critical need to protect our workers and ensure they have better pay, benefits, and working conditions. In honor of the late Richard Trumka and all the workers who sacrificed so much over the past year, I stand with my fellow attorneys general in urging the Senate to pass the PRO Act and support working people.”
The PRO Act is comprised of commonsense reforms to the NLRA designed to curb worker intimidation, retaliation, and other abusive practices and, more generally, restore the law’s original purpose of encouraging unionization. Compared to their non-union counterparts, union members earn 10 to 15 percent higher wages; are more likely to have employer-sponsored benefits, like health insurance, paid sick days, and pensions; experience less wage theft; and are less reliant on public benefits. Today, just 12 percent of American workers are represented by a union — down from 27 percent in 1979.
If enacted, the PRO Act would give the National Labor Relations Board the power to fine companies that retaliate against organizing workers and require arbitration when unionized workers and employers cannot reach agreements on contracts. It would also strengthen the right of workers to strike, ban employer interference and influence in union elections, and prevent employers from using employees’ immigration status against them when determining the terms of their employment. Notably, the legislation would override state “right to work” laws, which allow employees to forgo paying dues in unionized workplaces, and would address the “gig” economy by lowering the bar for independent contractors to prove they are “employees” under the Act.