CHN: Two Pro-Labor, Pro-Union Bills Introduced

Collective bargaining agreements are especially important in closing the gender and racial wage gaps. Two bills that would protect the rights of workers to organize have recently been introduced in Congress.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 3463/S. 1970) was introduced on June 25 by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Unlike private sector workers, there is currently no federal law that protects the freedom of public service workers to join together in a union and collectively bargain for fair wages, hours, and working conditions. This bill would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that states must provide, giving public sector workers the same basic rights and freedoms enjoyed by workers in the private sector. The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on the bill on June 26.

In a statement praising the bill’s introduction, Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) said, “This legislation is about defending the freedom of public sector employees to form and join unions if they choose to do so. Public service workers show up every day to make our communities healthier, safer and stronger. It’s time for elected officials to show up for them and give them the respect and voice on the job they deserve to negotiate for themselves and their communities.” The bill is supported by CHN members AFSCME, the National Education Association, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), among others.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474/S.1306) was introduced in May by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). According to the Economic Policy Institute, the bill would provide stronger and swifter remedies when employers in the private sector interfere with workers’ rights to form a union and provide more freedom to organize without employer interference. The bill would also ensure unions can collect “fair share” fees from non-union members. In his testimony at a May hearing of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL-CIO, said, “The PRO Act would do many important things, chief among them provide more substantial relief for workers whose rights have been violated…ensure a process for reaching a first contract once a union is recognized…and create a true deterrent, so employers think twice before violating the law.”