Wyden, Merkley Sponsor Bill to Protect Workers’ Right to Organize and Make our Economy Work for Everyone

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined colleagues to introduce the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, comprehensive legislation to protect workers’ rights to stand together and bargain for fairer wages, better benefits and safer workplaces.

“Some of our most vital rights and protections – child labor laws, sick leave, and even weekends – exist due to the tireless efforts of unions in Oregon and all over this country,” Wyden said. “With wages increasing exponentially for the ultra-wealthy while staying stagnant for most workers, we need strong unions to protect and advocate for our workers, especially as we weather this pandemic.”

“For decades, the powerful and privileged have rigged our economy to protect themselves and their wealth—often by exploiting the workers who created that wealth in the first place. That has got to change,” said Merkley. “As the son of a union machinist, I saw up close the difference a strong union can make in delivering the fair wages and strong workplace protections that every worker deserves, and that we’re going to need in order to rebuild our communities in the wake of this pandemic. That’s why I’m fully committed to doing all that I can to keep partnering with, and strengthening, America’s unions.”

The pandemic has made it clear that the economy is primarily benefitting the biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals—while failing workers, and in particular women and workers of color. While wages are stagnant for the bottom 50% of workers, the top one percent of earners have seen their wages grow by 205 percent. Worsening income inequality hurts women and workers of color the most, who disproportionately have jobs with lower wages and fewer, if any, benefits.

Unions are critical to increasing wages and addressing growing income inequality—with studies showing that union members earn on average 19% more than those with similar education, occupation and experience in a non-union workplace. The PRO Act would reverse years of attacks on unions and restore fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal laws that protect workers’ right to join a union and bargain for higher wages and better benefits. 

The PRO Act would protect the right to organize and collectively bargain by:

  • Bolstering remedies and punishing violations of workers’ rights through authorizing meaningful penalties for employers that violate workers’ rights, strengthening support for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights, and authorizing a private right of action for violation of workers’ rights.
  • Strengthening workers’ right to join together and negotiate for better working conditions by enhancing workers’ right to support secondary boycotts, ensuring workers can collect “fair share” fees, modernizing the union election process and facilitating initial collective bargaining agreements.
  • Restoring fairness to an economy rigged against workers by closing loopholes that allow employers to misclassify their employees as supervisors and independent contractors and increasing transparency in labor-management relations.

In addition to Senators Wyden and Merkley, the PRO Act, led by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Chuck Schumer , D-N.Y., was co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Cory A. Booker, D-N.J., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai’i., Brian Schatz, D-Hawai’i., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Tom Carper, D-Del., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chris Coons, D-Neb., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Alex Padilla, D-Calif.

To read the fact sheet of the PRO Act, click HERE

To read the section by section on the PRO Act, click HERE.

To read the full text of the PRO Act, click HERE.