Democrats Seek to Roll Back Right-to-Work Protections

May 14, 2019 Updated: May 15, 2019

WASHINGTON—Forty Senate Democrats and 100 of their party colleagues in the House of Representatives are pushing a bill that they claim “would empower millions of Americans,” but that critics blast as repealing key provisions of a landmark law that has governed labor-management relations since 1947.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act includes a host of regulatory and statute reforms that are needed, according to a House Education and Labor Committee fact sheet, because of growing economic inequality.

“While the economy is working very well for the wealthy, the well-connected, and the massive corporations, it’s stagnating for everyone else. From 1980 to 2014, income for the bottom half of income earners grew by one percent, while income for the top 1 percent of earners grew by 205 percent, “ the fact sheet claims.

Committee Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) hailed the proposal in an accompanying statement as “a comprehensive proposal to ensure that workers have the right to stand together and negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) lauded the PRO proposal in the same statement.

Democratic campaign strategists and activists are similarly lining up to support the proposal.

Strategist Christian Hanley, who hosts the Keep it in Perspective podcast, told The Epoch Times on May 14 that corporations have so out-gunned unions for decades that “we are left with a crumbling middle class hampered by low wages and deep debt.

“By taking a stand for the rights of working families at the federal level, Democrats are signaling they will fully back the men and women leading the fight across the country to rebuild the American middle class.”

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, a veteran of nonprofit public interest activism, told The Epoch Times that “corporate America has been on the rampage against workers. The nation is poorer, more unequal, and weaker as a result.”

Rather than a potentially major change of direction in federal labor law, however, Weissman described the PRO proposal as “a modest effort to try and rebalance the scales. This is not about payback, it’s about making our country more just. We can only hope that Democrats will follow through if they have the power to do so in 2021.”

Weissman’s mention of 2021 points to the key significance of the PRO bill—a vote on it in the Republican Senate is likely inconceivable this year or next.

But if Democrats regain the White House and the Senate in 2020, while maintaining their House majority, the PRO measure will be a top priority and quickly approved, with decades passing before its effects could be mitigated or reversed.

Labor unions contributed nearly $60 million to Democratic congressional candidates in 2018, compared to $9.8 million to Republicans, according to Union coffers will be even more generously opened to Democrats in 2020, if history is a guide.

Union Power

It’s the prospect of PRO passage in 2021 that worries defenders of individual worker rights.

“This is a pretty clear agenda for what they have in store for American workers if they ever get control of the levers of power,” National Right-to-Work Committee President Mark Mix told The Epoch Times.

“This is the pro-forced unionism bill is what it is. It’s got everything including the kitchen sink, it’s like the smorgasbord at the local diner on Thursday night,” said Mix, who explained that in his youth, his mother worked in a truck stop that offered such a menu once a week.

Capital Research Center’s research director Michael Watson agreed, telling The Epoch Times that the “immediate consequence would be to override every right-to-work law currently in effect.”

Such laws were created by Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which allows states to protect a worker’s right not to join a union as a condition of working. Labor unions have sought 14(b)’s repeal since its adoption. Currently, 27 states and one U.S. territory have enacted right-to-work laws.

Watson said those laws would be voided by language the PRO bill adds to 14(b), saying, “collective bargaining agreements providing that all employees in a collective bargaining unit shall contribute fees to a labor organization for the cost of representation, collective bargaining contract enforcement related expenditures as a condition of employment, shall be valid and enforceable.”

Killing right-to-work laws would be part of “the most radical expansion of union power since 1935,” Watson said in a separate CRC analysis of the proposal.

Mix emphasized to The Epoch Times that “we would not allow passage to be uncontested, that’s for sure, and I would guess there would be attorneys general from several states that would want to challenge it. It would be a legal battle.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at