July/August 2021 Issue
June 13, 2021

What is the PRO Act?

Author: By NYSUT Office of General Counsel
Source: NYSUT United
pro act

Legislation that would dramatically expand workers’ right to organize has cleared the U.S. House and is awaiting Senate approval. If passed by the Senate, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act will significantly expand labor protections for private sector employees’ right to organize and bargain collectively in the workplace.

The PRO Act increases penalties for employers that violate workers’ rights; protects strikes and other protest activity; streamlines the process for reaching a collective bargaining agreement once a union is formed; and so much more.

Specifically, if passed, the PRO Act would:

  • Eliminate so-called “right to work” laws which, contrary to their name, make it harder for working people to form unions and bargain collectively for better wages and benefits;
  • Forbid employer interference with union elections. It makes it an unfair labor practice to require employees to attend “captive audience” meetings designed to discourage union membership. It would also prohibit employers from entering into agreements with employees under which employees waive the right to pursue or join collective or class-action litigation;
  • Assist newly formed unions in reaching a first contract;
  • Strengthen worker protections against employer retaliation for exercising rights under the National Labor Relations Act;
  • Increase penalties for employers that violate workers’ rights by instituting civil penalties for violations of federal labor law, including back pay and damages;
  • Address procedures for union representation elections; provide employees with the ability to vote in elections remotely by telephone or the internet; modify the protections against unfair labor practices that result in serious economic harm; and establish penalties and permit injunctive relief against entities that fail to comply with National Labor Relations Board orders; and
  • Protect strikes and other protest activity and make it unlawful to hire permanent replacements for striking workers.

Importantly, the PRO Act would also provide whistleblower protection to employees, including those with management responsibilities, when they participate in protected activities such as:

  • providing information about a potential violation to an enforcement agency;
  • initiating or participating in a proceeding concerning an alleged violation; or
  • refusing to participate in an activity the employee reasonably believes is a violation of labor laws.

In addition to these increased workplace protections, the PRO Act would provide economic justice for marginalized groups by encouraging and supporting unionization efforts and the corresponding rise in wages for workers of color and women that comes with collectively bargained pay. The PRO Act’s passage is critical to protecting working people and providing a significant step toward leveling the playing field between employers and employees.