Although a Gallup poll in 2020 confirmed that 65% of people in the country favor union representation, only 10% of people actually have union representation. This gap between the preference of, and reality for, employees underscores the lack of workplace democracy in the United States. The limitations of existing law provide one of the main reasons for this situation, which is why advocates for workplace fairness have pushed for the adoption of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Among other things, this law would prohibit the misclassification of employees that deprives them of workplace rights, would repeal “right to work” laws that depress pay for all employees whether or not a union represents them, and would impose more meaningful penalties for retaliation and other illegal conduct by employers. By enabling more employees who want union representation to have it, moreover, the PRO Act would reduce the hiring and wage differences based on race and sex that currently exist in the nation.
In short, the PRO Act represents a significant advancement for both labor rights and civil rights. The United States House of Representatives has already passed the PRO Act on a bi-partisan basis, so the proposed legislation will now be considered by the United States Senate. The PRO Act would almost certainly become law if not for the use of the filibuster maneuver, which requires 60 of the 100 Senators to vote for the legislation under consideration. Tellingly, the use of the filibuster in this way began in the Jim Crow era to maintain a system of State and Local laws, policies, and practices that generally preserved white supremacy in economic, political, and social affairs after the official abolition of slavery. Political courage and responsible action are needed now more than ever for the PRO Act to become law and for the country otherwise to build back better.