Op-ed: The PRO Act Is How We Build a Better Future for Virginia’s Working Families

By Doris Crouse-Mays,Virginia AFL-CIO

AMay 26 op-ed, in which Grafton deButts of the Loudon County Chamber of Commerce criticizes the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, not only dismisses how this bill will help our working families, but it disrespects everything Virginia’s workers have gone through over the last year to keep our state’s economy afloat.

While tens of thousands of Virginians were able to comfortably work from home during the COVID-19 crisis, our essential workers could not. Grocery workers made sure families got food on the table. Postal workers showed up with our packages. Linemen kept our power on. And every single one of these workers had to return from work each night wondering if they had caught or would infect their loved ones with COVID-19. Those without the power of a union were left weighing the potential consequences of speaking up about workplace safety.

Unfortunately, our broken labor laws allow employers to get away with violating the National Labor Relations Act with little to no consequence. As we navigate our new normal and continue to mitigate the risks all around us, there has never been a more important time to ensure workers can speak up for themselves with a voice on the job.

Enter the PRO Act. This monumental legislation will empower Virginia’s workers, including those right here in Loudoun County, to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. Business interests claim this bill will mean economic disaster, but this could not be further from the truth. Union members are more likely to have higher wages (11.2% more than what nonunion workers make), better access to employer-paid healthcare (94% compared to 68%), retirement benefits through private employers (82% to 48%) and so much more.

DeButt references how the PRO Act will put an end to “right to work” in Virginia. While this is accurate, there is no boogeyman union leader whose life goal is to “force” workers to join their union. In fact, no one can force anyone to join a union — it’s federally illegal. What Jim Crow-era “right to work” laws actually do is suppress wages, lower workplace safety and reduce the quality of public services we rely on in our communities.

I was also deeply disappointed to read deButt’s suggestion that workers who cannot afford to live in Loudon County should resort to extra gig work on apps such as Uber and DoorDash.

In no way will the PRO Act take away anyone’s ability to pursue a second job. However, riddle me this–what if we lived in a world where workers weren’t forced to make ends meet through gig work?

What if we lived in a world where one job was enough? Our younger generations might not remember, but we used to live in this world. Between 1948 and 1973, when New Deal era laws expanded and enforced collective bargaining, hourly wagesroseby more than 90%, keeping in line with a productivity increase of 97%. It was much easier during that time period for a Virginia family to make an honest, living wage and lead a comfortable life.

But then from 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation for a typical worker rose just nine–yes, nine–percent while productivity increased 74%.

For far too long, Virginia’s workers have been producing significantly more than what they are compensated for, and business leaders have been getting away with violating our labor laws. It’s time for a change. It’s time for Mark Warner to co-sponsor the PRO Act.

Doris Crouse-Mays is president of the Virginia AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor union federation

6 thoughts on “Op-ed: The PRO Act Is How We Build a Better Future for Virginia’s Working Families

  • 2021-06-29 at 10:59 am
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    Actually, it’s time for AFL-CIO bosses to learn how to spell Loudoun. These people are not taxpayer’s friends.

  • 2021-06-29 at 1:14 pm
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    If you are telling us what to do, you could at least spell our county’s name correctly. It is “Loudoun.”

    Second, I was just thinking the exact opposite. These “Jim Crow-era” labor unions have become a threat to our national security and we need to abolish them entirely.

    “But then from 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation for a typical worker rose just nine–yes, nine–percent while productivity increased 74%.” That isn’t even close to being accurate. Hourly compensation in 2013 was dramatically higher than 1973.

  • 2021-06-29 at 2:38 pm
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    Recent surveys show that business owners are strongly OPPOSED to the PRO Act, as its core measures would be RUINOUS to small businesses.

    The PRO Act abolishes “Right to Work” laws that protect non-union workers from contributing to union fees. Employees oppose repealing state “Right to Work” laws.

    It also removes the right of workers to hold a secret ballot regarding if they should or should not join a union.
    Furthermore, the PRO Act includes a stricter version of California’s “ABC” independent contractor laws that forced the state of California to immediately carve out dozens of exceptions. The PRO Act has no such exceptions. Business owners believe small businesses should be able to hire independent contractors to perform tasks essential to their business.

    There are other harmful tenets to the PRO Act, such as making small businesses responsible for the hiring decisions of their subcontractors, requiring employers to provide the personal contact information for all their employees to union organizers without the consent of the employee, and legalizing “secondary boycotts,” where a union can pressure businesses that do dealings with the business they are in dispute with.

    There is nothing in this bill that would help build a better future unless you are a union boss and want the money from forced union participation.

    All small business owners should contact their Congressional representatives and tell them how the PRO Act’s radical measures would hurt their business.

  • 2021-06-29 at 6:22 pm
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    The proposed “PRO” legislation is a MASSIVE payoff by the (D) party to their friends who run the obsolete labor unions.

    That’s all this is. Nothing more, nothing less.

    If you’re curious about the management of labor unions, be sure to check out the Dept of Labor’s OLMS data. You will find thousands of criminal cases and hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution. And that’s just the one’s that are actually caught stealing from their members.

  • 2021-06-29 at 11:02 pm
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    A month later and there is a response. No sense of urgency, big shocker there.

  • 2021-07-02 at 9:14 am
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    Union propaganda from the AFL/CIO is hardly an objective perspective. This letter spouts the same lame arguments for pro-union laws that will undermine economic progress , kill businesses and jobs.
    This legislation will gut Virginia’s Right to Work laws that have enabled Virginia’s strong economic performance and job growth.
    The PRO act is is union wish list legislation that is anti-business, anti-worker and will raise prices for everyone.
    A robust economy is the ultimate pro worker solution that provides workers with employment options and compels businesses to raise wages and enhance benefits.
    Don’t buy the union argument that paying dues to monopolistic , , politicized, corrupt unions that is good for anybody.

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