Budzinski signs on as co-sponsor to PRO Act


Illinois correspondent

Washington – Freshman Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.) cosigned as a sponsor to the recently reintroduced Protect The Right To Organize (PRO) Act in the hopes of bringing some of Illinois’ newly passed rights to organize nationwide.

Key lawmakers on worker rights’ issues – Senate Labor Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, (Ind-Vt.) and Rep. Bobby Scott, (D-Va.) – introduced the newest version of the Protect The Right To Organize (PRO) Act on Feb. 28.

“I’m proud to sign on as an original cosponsor of the PRO Act to defend the right to organize, hold employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights and secure free, fair and safe union elections,” Budzinski said.

There are three major components to the Trumka PRO Act:

The first component streamlines the justice process for retaliation by companies and enhancing the right for workers to boycott and strike.

The second component closes loopholes in Labor laws to hold employers accountable for violating their employees’ rights and to facilitate collective bargaining agreements.

The third component aims to secure free and fair Labor union elections so that union leadership represents the workers.

“The Labor Movement built the middle class – but after years of attacks on workers’ rights, we need to strengthen it,” Budzinski said. “That’s why I’ve fought on the side of working people my entire career and came to Congress to stand up for better wages, benefits and working conditions for folks in central and southern Illinois.”

The bill immediately gained a number of supporters in and out of Congress, with union leaders calling for its quick passage.

“This critical piece of legislation would finally put teeth back into the National Labor Relations Act with respect to organizing workers,” said United Mine Workers of America president Cecil Roberts.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said the bill would restore the original intent of the National Labor Relations Act to protect workers, since eroded by corporate interests.

“For too long, employers have been able to violate the law with impunity, routinely denying working people our basic right to join with coworkers for fairness on the job,” Shuler said. “Restoring our middle class is dependent on strengthening our collective power.”

One of the key points of the bill is requiring mediation and arbitration to settle disputes with newly certified unions, forcing companies to facilitate first contracts.

“Nearly half of new unions fail to reach a contract within their first year because their employers won’t even come to the table,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). “That is plain wrong. I support the common sense reforms in the PRO Act that will level the playing field and protect workers rights… But it will take support from both sides of the aisle to get this vital bill passed.”

Budzinski pointed out that from 1979 to 2020, annual wages for the lower 90 percent of households increased 26 percent, while average incomes for the top one percent increased more than 160 percent.

Meanwhile, union members earn on average 10 percent more than those with similar occupations and the same education and experience in a non-union workplace, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Indeed, the 17 states with the highest union densities have state minimum wages that are 19 percent higher than the national average and 40 percent higher than low-union-density states, and have a median income $6,000 higher than the national average.

But those aren’t the only benefits, and the benefits don’t just help union workers. When union density is high:

  • Non-union workers also benefit by higher wages and better benefits, according to the Institute.
  • Hourly wages for women represented by a union are higher and reduce gender wage gaps for similar jobs in a given workplace.
  • Black workers represented by a union are paid 13 percent more than non-union Black workers.
  • Union Hispanic workers are paid nearly 19 percent more.

States with high union densities have a lower percentage of population who are uninsured, and are more likely to have passed paid sick leave, family and medical leave laws. They also have fewer restrictive voting laws compared to low-union states, 70 percent of which have passed at least one voter suppression law between 2011 and 2019. Meanwhile, so-called “right-to-work” legislation has been associated with a 14 percent increase in occupational fatalities, according to the Institute.

The bill comes at a time when public support for Labor is surging. A 2022 Gallup poll showed that 71 percent of Americans approve of Labor unions, the highest approval rating since 1965. But at the same time, union membership has fallen to a new low of 10.1 percent in 2022.

“Regrettably, for too long, workers have suffered from anti-union attacks and toothless Labor laws that undermined their right to form a union,” Scott said. “As a historic number of Americans put their support behind labor unions, Congress has an urgent responsibility to ensure that workers can join a union and negotiate for higher pay, better benefits, and safer workplaces. Passing the PRO Act is the most critical step we can take this Congress to achieve that goal.”

Budzinski’s statement said she hopes to restore fairness to the economy by strengthening federal laws protecting workers’ rights to join a union and bargain. Budzinski worked in Labor Movements before coming to Congress, and is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.


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March 20, 2023 at 05:12PM

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