May 09, 2018

Gillibrand, Sanders, Pocan Introduce Legislation To Protect And Strengthen Workers’ Rights

Union Workers are 50% Less Likely to Be Victims of Health and Safety Violations or of Wage Theft, 18% More Likely to Have Health Coverage, and 23% More Likely to Have Either an Employer-Sponsored Pension or 401(k)

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), and their colleagues in both chambers of Congress introduced legislation, the Workplace Democracy Act, that would strengthen the middle class by restoring workers’ rights to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. The legislation has been endorsed by nearly every major union in America. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Public support for unions is at a 15-year high, at 61 percent. Union workers earn higher wages, better benefits, and a more secure retirement. On average, union workers earn 26 percent more than non-union workers.

The rights of workers to join together and bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions have been severely undermined. Sixty years ago, nearly a third of all workers belonged to a union. Today, that number has gone down to 10.7 percent. When workers become interested in forming unions, 75 percent of private-sector employers hire outside consultants to run anti-union campaigns. An employee who engages in union organizing campaigns has a one-in-five chance of getting fired.

“When workers’ rights to collective bargaining are attacked and undermined, corporations have enormous power over their workers and can keep wages so low that even full-time employees are still living in poverty,” said Senator Gillibrand. That is not how our economy is supposed to work. We need to start rewarding work again in this country, and that means making sure every worker has the right to join together to fight for the pay and protections they deserve. I am proud to fight for this important legislation with Senator Sanders, and I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to join us in standing up for our workers.”

“We must no longer tolerate CEOs and managers who intimidate, threaten or fire pro-union workers, who threaten to move plants to China if their workers vote in favor of a union and who refuse to negotiate a first contract with workers who have voted to join unions,” said Senator Sanders. “If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country.”

“Republicans like President Trump and Governor Walker continue to crack down on unions and push a special interest, corporate-driven agenda that makes it harder for middle class families to get ahead. And while they stack the deck against the American worker, unions are fighting to expand economic opportunity and strengthen the middle class,” said Congressman Pocan. “The Workplace Democracy Act restores real bargaining rights to workers and repeals the right to work laws like those that Governor Walker has used to undercut American workers. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Sanders and stand up for the millions of middle class families who are under attack by Republican leaders.”

The Workplace Democracy Act would make it easier for workers to join unions in the following ways:

  • It would end “right to work for less” laws by repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act, which has allowed 28 states to pass legislation eliminating the ability of unions to collect fair share fees from those who benefit from union contracts and activities.
  • Under the legislation, when a majority of workers in a bargaining unit sign valid authorization cards to join a union, they must have a union.
    • Companies would not be allowed to deny or delay a first contract with workers who have voted to join a union. 
    • Unions would be given the right to have their voice heard through secondary boycotts and picketing. 
    • Workers would have the right to know when their company spends millions of dollars running anti-union campaigns.
  • The bill would also stop employers from exploiting workers by misclassifying them as independent contractors or denying them overtime by falsely categorizing them as a “supervisor.”

The text of the legislation is available here.

A summary of the legislation is available here.