The “Protecting the Right to Organize Act,” sponsored by U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Bobby Scott, is a vital piece of legislation that could do wonders for union organizing in this country.
Union organizing – what’s good about that? Quite a lot, actually. While it’s arguable that the U.S. economy has worked well enough for the rich-and-getting-richer, it’s been pretty lousy for pretty much everyone else, which is to say, most of working America. From 1980 to 2014, wages for the bottom half of income earners grew by a mere one percent, resulting in rapidly rising inequality and all the political (notably the forms of legalized corruption called “campaign finance” and “lobbying”) and social (malnutrition, homelessness, lack of health care coverage, just for starters) ills that come with it. Employee unions can help to correct this dysfunctional imbalance by building the power of workers to bargain for better wages and benefits.
Not for nothing has union activism recently been on the rise. But to really help build unions, federal legislation needs to be strengthened. And that’s where the Murray/Scott proposed legislation comes in. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act would protect the right to join a union by:
(1) Deterring and punishing violations of workers’ rights with hefty fines and other actions by the National Labor Relations Board;
(2) Enhancing workers’ rights to support boycotts, strikes and other peaceful acts of solidarity that are currently prohibited under federal labor law;
(3) Promoting fairness by closing loopholes in current law exploited by employers to misclassify workers and deny fair wages, exploit immigrant labor, refuse to reveal contracts for union-busting “consultation,” and subvert appropriate remedies for workers’ grievances.
Unions have been gutted by globalization and ideologically vilified in the U.S. for decades, with a resulting decline in union strength and steady shift in the already tilted power balance between employers and workers – creating a radically destructive imbalance that literally has undermined American democracy and turned the two major political parties into mere wings of the corporate state. Protecting the Right to Organize Act is a long overdue corrective.