Senator Gillibrand Pushes For New Union Protections

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Rochester Monday to say that passing the PRO act will help get the country’s economy back on track. She was joined by union leaders, Congressman Joe Morelle, Assemblymembers Sarah Clark and Jen Lunsford at the new Teamsters Local 118 building in Brighton.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Teamsters Local 118 Paul A. Markwitz before a news conference in support of the PRO Act. CREDIT JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS

The PRO in Pro act stands for Protecting the Right to Organize. It passed in the House of Representatives in March. Gillibrand said both she and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer are pushing for it in the Senate. She argued that new protections are overdue.

“When people can join unions and bargain collectively they can even the playing field and create a fair and equitable workplace for everyone,” said Gillibrand. “The best way to get our economy back and to rebuild our middle class is to support our unions and our workers.”

The expansive bill has many new protections but Gillibrand focused on a few including penalizing companies that interfere with the process of union organizing, helping unions collect dues Right to Work States, where people can opt out of paying them, and clarify labor laws on how workers positions are classified.

The National Retail Federation called it the worst bill in Congress. They criticize many parts of the bill, saying that allowing unions to collect dues when an employee opts out of joining a union restricts free choice. The bill allows unions to organize secondary boycotts, potentially against businesses who work with companies while they’re in the midst of union disputes which the federation said would hurt small business.

It also argues that the bill could hurt many of the workers that they’re trying to protect. The federation’s blog post said gig workers and other contractors without benefits could lose their jobs if it passes due to the proposed changes to labor laws. The federation said this could potentially kill the gig economy. Gillibrand strongly disagrees.

“I think that’s B.S. I think that’s false. I don’t think it’s true. I think it’s scare tactics,” said Gillibrand. “You don’t have to choose between giving workers fair pay, safe work conditions and a good work environment and growing the economy.”

Gillibrand said she’s hopeful that the bill will be a part of President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill which is being negotiated now.