Advocates Push for Labor Protections in Reconciliation Bill

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Los miembros del sindicato se manifiestan a favor de la Ley PRO en la oficina de Los Ángeles del Representante de los Estados Unidos Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Photo Credit: CWA

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Build Back Better reconciliation bill currently being negotiated among Senate Democrats would increase penalties on companies that violate labor laws, and unions are pressing for its passage.

The bill would impose civil penalties of up to $100,000 for certain violations and make directors and officers personally liable.

Anthony Testa, a shop steward with Communications Workers of America Local 9510 in Orange County, said some companies become abusive when workers try to organize.

“We’ve had workers that have wanted to form a union but were subjected to companies making disparaging comments, bringing people into separate meetings trying to basically discourage them or intimidate them into not joining a union,” Testa recounted.

Opponents argued the changes would be a burden on business and cost jobs.

Labor groups are big supporters of the PRO Act, which passed the U.S. House in March but is stalled in the Senate. The bill would make it a violation of the National Labor Relations Act to require employees to attend so-called “captive audience” meetings, to permanently replace strikers, to lock out employees prior to a strike, or to misclassify certain workers as “non-employees.”

Dan Mauer, director of government affairs for the Communication Workers of America, said right now companies often just get a slap on the wrist for violations, and workers continue to suffer.

“If we want to rebuild the labor movement and, in turn, rebuild the middle class, we’ve got to make sure those issues get corrected,” Mauer asserted.

The PRO Act would also make it a labor-law violation to discriminate against an employee who has offered to unconditionally return to work after a strike.