WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help workers in Rhode Island and nationwide, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are renewing their push to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, comprehensive labor legislation to protect workers’ right to stand together and bargain for fairer wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces.

Unions give workers a stronger voice through collective bargaining and are critical to growing the middle-class now and in the future.  Organized labor helps protect workers’ health, safety, benefits, and retirement security.  Studies show that union members earn, on average, 10 percent more than those with similar education, occupation, and experience in a non-union workplace. 

This week, Reed and Whitehouse helped reintroduce the PRO Act, which has been named after Richard Trumka, the former president of the AFL-CIO, who passed away in 2021.  The bipartisan bill seeks to expand measures to guarantee workers' ability to organize a union for collective bargaining and crack down on employers that violate the law when battling unions, by instituting civil penalties for violations of the law, including back pay and damages.

Specifically, the PRO Act would:

  • Hold employers accountable for violating workers’ rights by authorizing meaningful penalties, facilitating initial collective bargaining agreements, and closing loopholes that allow employers to misclassify their employees as supervisors and independent contractors.
  • Empower workers to exercise their right to organize by strengthening support for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights, protecting workers’ right to support secondary boycotts, ensuring workers can collect “fair share” fees, and authorizing a private right of action for violation of workers’ rights.
  • Secure free, fair, and safe union elections by preventing employers from interfering in union elections, prohibiting captive audience meetings, and requiring employers to be transparent with their workers.

“This is about protecting American workers and strengthening our economy and the middle-class.  It’s about restoring workers’ rights to fair pay and decent working conditions and holding employers to basic standards and not letting them flout the law,” said Senator Reed.  “The PRO Act would empower workers and ensure their rights to unionize and collectively bargain are protected.”

“Strengthening unions is the surest way to grow the middle-class,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “The PRO Act will better position the workers who keep this country running to secure fair pay, good benefits, and safe working conditions.”

The PRO Act is led by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the U.S. Senate and co-led in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03) and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01).

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the PRO Act in March 2021, but due to strong Republican opposition in the U.S. Senate and a 60-vote threshold, failed to advance in the Senate.

In his 2023 State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden declared: “I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing. Pass the PRO Act because workers have a right to form a union. And let’s guarantee all workers have a living wage.”

Public support for labor unions is also surging.  According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans approve of labor unions—the highest that Gallup recorded since 1965. Despite growing support for unions, decades of anti-union attacks have made it harder for workers to organize. Union membership fell to a new low of 10.1 percent in 2022. The PRO Act restores fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal law that protects workers’ right to join a union and bargain for higher pay, better benefits, and safer workplaces.