New York, NY – Working men and women are rising up, risking all and taking collective action against unchecked exploitation in the era of Covid-19 — and Senate Democrats had better catch up. 

That’s the message frustrated organizers wrapping up a fruitless 14-day, 3,126-mile journey across the country advocating for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) delivered to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s New York City doorstep earlier this month. 

CWA Local 1102 President Steve Lawton joins rally outside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office calling on officials to take action on the PRO Act.

“Workers are leading the way right now, but we need more,” Our Revolution National Field Organizer Mike Oles told supporters gathered across the street from  Schumer’s Manhattan offices. “We need the United States Government to step it up a little bit — we need the Democrats who run this government [and] who say we’re pro-union, we’re gonna put our money where our mouth is and we are going to throw down for the PRO Act.”

So far, Democrats have done more kowtowing to senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) than “throwing down” for the most significant piece of labor rights legislation to come along in more than a half-century. 

The legislation could significantly eliminate existing barriers to workplace organizing and crack down on bosses denying employees their right to unionize.

Legislation that, by itself or folded into the rapidly fading Build Back Better package, could significantly eliminate existing barriers to workplace organizing and crack down on bosses denying employees their right to unionize.  

“We’re seeing our whole economy and everything we understand change right in front of our eyes emerging from covid,” said Steve Lawton, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1102 on Staten Island, New York. “We see how corporate America is capitalizing on this moment and is hurting us all. We see workers who took the brunt of this pandemic and continue to organize at Amazon and everywhere else, how they’re struggling. That’s what this is about — how are we going to go forward into the future if we don’t change policy to equalize power between the workers and the employer?”

Build Back Better Disappointment

But the day after Christmas, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) warned, “a lot of us are gonna be disappointed,” with the overall Build Back Better plan.

Oles’s cross-country pickup run, which started out outside Sinema’s Phoenix office before making other senatorial stops along the way including Dallas, Memphis, Cleveland and Buffalo — skirted against the deadly tornadoes that ripped through the midwest in December.

“Amazon workers in Illinois died because they were failed by Amazon,” Oles said. “They weren’t given a safe workplace; they were told to keep on working through a tornado. In [Mayfield] Kentucky, workers died making candles for $8 or $9 an hour. People died in the middle of the night begging to go home.” 

Schumer sent a message to PRO Act advocates reiterating his support for the legislation. “These are nice words,” they said, “but what is needed is action.”

Despite Senator Joe Manchin’s continued opposition, the top Democratic powerbroker is vowing to bring the Build Back Better package to the Senate floor for a vote sometime early in the new year.  

Road to nowhere? PRO Act pick-up truck is parked outside Chuck Schumer’s Manhattan offices after advocates wrapped up a cross-country holiday tour in support of the legislation.

“We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act and we will keep voting on it until we get something done,” Schumer said in a Dec. 20 letter to Senate colleagues. 

Failing to deliver the good for working families is likely to prove devastating for Democrats during the upcoming midterm elections — and beyond. 

Donald Trump originally gained the White House in large measure because so many frustrated union households voted for him.  

“We need everything we’ve got to get this thing done before it’s too late,” Oles said. “We want Chuck Schumer to be the Majority Leader still. We want Democrats to have the majority in the United States House [of Representatives]. We don’t the Republicans — we don’t want Trump back in charge. But I have some bad news — we’re fighting with our hands tied behind our backs. We are not empowering the base of our movement — it’s time we get the PRO Act on the road and get it passed.”

Lawton says Trump supporters can be tuned back towards the union “if we all focus on this together.”

“I’m hearing a lot of politicians on the Democratic side especially speak about systematic racism and how do we dismantle that,” he said. “Well, if we’re talking about dismantling systemic racism, we’re talking about equity and power. We’re not talking about giving us crumbs in some little bill that’s gonna give us a little bit of time while we’re unemployed. We’re talking about equalizing our power. That’s what the PRO Act is about.”


1 thought on “What If Democrats Fail to Deliver the PRO Act for Labor?”

  1. Unions nearly destroyed the country, so it only makes perfect sense that we should allow them to take control of the nation again. Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat the same suffering time and again. Have we forgotten that the auto workers demanded more and more from GM until eventually GM collapsed under the pension fund? Has this really been so long ago that we do not remember that this happened and that an unprecedented and probably illegal bankruptcy was needed to save the jobs of the many thousands of laborers employed by GM? Have we forgotten the labor unions are the fundamental reason for the mass exodus of jobs from the U.S., and for the wholesale loss of any number of important industries that once upon a time provided employment for thousands of American workers? Does anyone know anyone who is employed in the manufacture of television sets? How many American workers do you suppose were once provided employment by this industry that was literally forced out of the country by the labor union?

    There are obvious, fundamental problems with the basic idea of labor unions. Most obviously, it interferes with the law of supply and demand as it applies to the cost of labor. Equally obvious, the constant demand for every higher wages and benefits is a fundamental cause of inflation, which is like a dog chasing its tail, except that retired people on fixed incomes don’t get to ride the merry-go-round. When the value of money decreases, they suffer a loss in spending power.

    Labor unions split the working class into two distinct subclasses: one that is unionized, one that isn’t. The class that is unionized drives up the cost of goods that are essential to everyday life for the class that isn’t unionized. No one ever wants to talk about this, because it is more convenient to hide the truth under the rug. Not only does the non-unionized worker class not enjoy the benefits had by the unionized class, but the non-unionized class suffers a lower quality of life because it is forced to shoulder a major part of the economic harm done by the unionized class. This is a fact.

    Workers should always be allowed to walk out and set up picket lines if the gripes are with hazardous work conditions. No one would likely argue against that. But other than that, employers ought to have the right to refuse to hire anyone who isn’t willing to sign an employment contract that says that they give up the right to collective bargaining, completely. Except when the collective bargaining is bargaining over work conditions. Admittedly there is a gray area, which is with the hours workers are required to work. Intervention by government is needed to deal with this aspect of compensation, but other than the hours workers must work, anything else that is specifically about worker compensation should be left up to the employer and the employee, with the government staying out of it. If a worker doesn’t want to work for a company that prohibits collective bargaining, the worker can simply choose not to work there, and go work for another company that is kinder to its work force and more appreciative of its work force. Companies that pay below-average wages and that prohibit collective bargaining will have difficulty hiring. To remain in business they will have to raise their wages. The non-unionized class of worker will be greatly appreciative of this kind of employer so long as the wages it pays are better than what the non-unionized worker would earn somewhere else. It all works out on its own in a natural way, without government interference. The plain truth is that government interference in worker compensation is really just a limited type of socialism, and it was never, ever a good idea. In the beginning, the idea of government interference in worker compensation was promoted by persons with a socialist agenda, and this remains true today just as it was in the early days. It was a bad idea in the 1930s, and it is a bad idea today. And make no mistake that government intervention is what this is truly about. The large unions have always needed the government to make it possible for them to do what they do. What they are asking for, is for more government intervention so that they can become powerful once again so that they can wreck the economy again, just like they did in the past, and just like they will do in the future each and every time they are permitted to return to power. And if you don’t like the message I’m sending, it is only because you don’t like the truth, because all I’m doing is telling you the truth.

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