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Democrats Have an Ambitious Plan to Save American Labor Unions

Alexia Fernández Campbell
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House Democrats have a plan to make unions great again.

They’re trying to get support for a sweeping labor reform bill that would reverse decades of Republican-backed policies meant to crush labor unions.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), introduced earlier this month by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), would push back on a series of Republican-backed laws that have cropped up in more than two dozen states in the past decade.

These so-called right-to-work laws let unionized workers skip out on paying union dues if they don’t want to. Normally, every worker chips in for the cost of negotiating a labor contract, because everyone in the bargaining unit benefits from it. Giving workers the option not to pay means many won’t, which then lowers a union’s membership and political influence. Unions have lost millions of dollars in states that have passed these laws.

The Democrats’ new bill would also allow workers to sue employers who illegally interfere with unionizing efforts, instead of forcing them to take all their complaints to the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that enforces collective bargaining laws. The new bill would also let the board hit employers with fines if they break the law. Right now there’s currently no financial penalty for employers who illegally fire workers who are trying to unionize, for example.

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