North Carolina is notorious for being inhospitable for worker’s unions, however, the Right to Organize Act is set to change the status quo, making it favorable for worker’s unions. Cardinal Pine, a Courier Newsroom publication reported, that the PRO-Act was passed in the US Congress in March. Rather unsurprisingly, every North Carolina Republican voted against the passing of the Act. Fortunately for workers across NC, the bill was passed.
According to the largest union association in NC, the new Act will be a “game changer for North Carolina workers”.
The bill has been lauded as a “generational opportunity to make America’s economy and democracy work for working people again,” MaryBe McMillan told Cardinal Pine, a Courier Newsroom publication. McMillan is the President of the North Carolina State American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (NC AFL-CIO). The bill has been brought up repeatedly in Congress but this time it finally passed through.
The bill has earned the admiration of workers’ rights organizations because it makes it easier for employees to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace while making it difficult for employers to retaliate against unionizing efforts.
Another important feature of the PRO-Act is the revised definitions of employee, employer, and supervisor. These definitions are more inclusive now, extending protections to more individuals.
“The PRO Act does that by ending misleading and racist ‘right to work’ laws and creating meaningful consequences for employers that retaliate against workers for simply exercising their right to organize,” McMillan said.
McMillan also highlighted that disallowing employees to organize themselves in workers’ unions infringes on their freedoms, as it makes it difficult for them to use the power of collective bargaining to negotiate better and safer working conditions. It is a freedom that should be available to all workers across the US.
The bill was a polarizing issue and was passed on party lines. While the bill has since moved to the Senate, no date has been set for a vote yet reported Courier Newsroom’s publication, Cardinal Pine. Should the PRO-Act win the vote in the Senate, it is expected to bring about significant changes in NC.
NC has a reputation for not being friendly to unions. Once this bill becomes law, it is slated to introduce important changes that may transform the future of unions in NC.
Unions are prohibited from requiring new employees to join or pay dues in NC because it is a right-to-work state. If PRO-Act becomes law, this prohibition would be overridden. It is a known fact that unions need funds to be able to collectively bargain and function on behalf of employees. Overriding this prohibition would ensure unions with collective bargaining agreements have access to regular funds. This would enhance their ability to advocate for better working conditions.
A press release by the Republican representative, Virginia Foxx, said that allowing unions to require employees to join unions would open them up to coercion and harassment.
The division on party lines boils down to who should be allowed to have more power, the employees or the company. It is expected the NC Republican senators Tillis and Burr will vote ‘no’ if the bill goes for a vote at the Senate.
It may be noted, however, that these changes only apply to private companies but not public offices. Under NC law, public offices are not allowed to conclude collective bargaining agreements with unions. This means that government employees would not be able to benefit from collective bargaining to negotiate for better wages, protection from indiscriminate firing, or health insurance benefits, among others.
Employers in NC would still be able to fire employees for any reason, and unions would not be allowed to contest the firing unless the person has been fired for unionizing.
Additional changes introduced by the bill include:
- Mandating that employees attend meetings discouraging them from joining unions
- Making it difficult for employers to retaliate against employees for unionizing
- Prohibiting companies from forcing employees to contractually waive their right to unionize