The Electrical Worker online
April 2020

From the Officers
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
The PRO Act and Our Future

Polls tell us a majority of American workers would join a union given the chance — but here's the rub. A barrage of attacks on labor laws means those chances are getting slimmer.

Our allies in the U.S. House took a ground-breaking step toward fixing that in February when 219 Democrats and five Republicans passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act.

It comes as the Trump administration, many states, the courts and oversight agencies are racing to destroy our rights. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employers can kick organizers out of public spaces and ban union pins and apparel at work, that big companies aren't responsible for how their franchises treat employees, that certain pickets are illegal, that unions no longer have the right to communicate with members via employer email, and much more.

Those were 3-1 decisions. Now the NLRB is voting 3-0 against us. In December, the term ran out for the only worker-friendly member, Lauren McFerran, whose scathing dissents showed how flawed and biased the majority's rulings were. Normally, the party in the White House gets three of the board's five seats and the other party gets two. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked hearings for Democratic nominees.

Beyond the NLRB, anti-worker bills are gaining steam, the courts are being stacked with judges hostile to labor, and we can't forget that the Supreme Court dealt what our foes hoped would be a death blow to public sector unions in 2018. It wasn't, thanks to the hard work of IBEW locals and other unions with public members. But the battle is far from over.

The PRO Act is ambitious. It would abolish state right-to-work laws that weaken unions and stifle organizing. It also toughens penalties for employers who bully and fire union supporters, stall union elections and bargaining, and commit other violations that cost them little, if anything, now.

Today's political reality means that the Act will hit a brick wall when it reaches the current U.S. Senate. But we can, and must, change that in November by electing a Senate and candidates across the board who will fight for us. As you read here last month, we've proudly endorsed Joe Biden for president, a steadfast friend to unions and working people for 50 years. He's behind the PRO Act, and he'll ensure it gets passed and signed when he becomes our next president.

Virginia is living proof of what's possible. Voters there turned the House and Senate blue last fall, leading to a 2020 legislative session that was packed with pro-worker bills. Among the victories in just two months: bargaining rights for public workers, the authorization of project labor agreements, penalties for misclassifying workers and a higher minimum wage.

Imagine what can be accomplished for workers across the country if we turn the tide with our votes this fall. Imagine the consequences if we don't.


Also: Stephenson: An Organizing Call to Arms Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer