OPINION: Let’s be clear: ‘Right-to-work’ is wrong. The PRO Act will wipe it off the map

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By JAKE HUMMEL
President
Missouri AFL-CIO

Nearly 60 million people say they would join a union today if they could. The problem? Union-busters, greedy CEOs, and woefully outdated laws continue to undermine the right to collectively bargain.

Just take so-called “right-to-work” laws, for example. Missouri’s anti-worker legislature and governor tried to pass “right-to-work” in 2018 and workers defeated it. But less than four months later the Missouri legislature again pre-filed a bill to make Missouri a “right-to-work” state. And what did they do again this year? They are trying to pass it again. “Right-to-work” has a more than 70-year track record of lowering wages, reducing benefits and making workplaces more dangerous.

RTW BY THE NUMBERS
Here are the results: On average, workers in states with “right-to-work” laws make nearly $9,000 less per year than workers in states without these laws ($50,174 compared with $59,163).

In 2019, 24 percent of jobs in “right-to-work” states were in low-wage occupations, compared to just 14.5 percent of jobs in other states.

The rate of workplace deaths is 37 percent higher in states with “right-to-work” laws.

But now we have a chance to put “right-to-work” where it belongs — in the trash bin of history, with the poll tax and the separate but equal doctrine.

PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE
The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would override these laws and strike a major victory for working families.

The PRO Act, in the U.S. Congress is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression because it will:

  • Empower workers to exercise their freedom to organize and bargain.
  • Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.
  • End employers’ practice of punishing striking workers by hiring permanent replacements. Speaking up for Labor rights is within every worker’s rights — and workers shouldn’t lose their jobs for it.
  • Hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining.
  • Repeal “right-to-work” laws in states that are RTW.
  • Create pathways for workers to form unions, without fear, in newer industries like technology companies and new energy.

The PRO Act was passed by the House last year but was blocked in the Senate. This year, we have another chance to make history. It’s time to pass the PRO Act and end “right-to-work” for good.

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