In 2020, American heroes in grocery stores, the U.S. Postal Service, hospitals and more became known as “essential workers,” and many of them had to risk their lives by going to work in unsafe conditions.

As the coronavirus crisis continues into 2021 and Missouri ranks last in vaccine distributions, the risk of a deadly workplace remains. There has never been a more important time to give workers more voice and power.

Research shows that nearly 60 million workers would join a labor union if given the opportunity. So, why haven’t they?

For years, politicians, lobbyists and greedy CEOs have stopped at nothing to keep worker power at bay. They weakened the National Labor Relations Act. They attacked collective bargaining rights. And they continue to try to pass “right-to-work” legislation.

2020 underscored something else, too — how urgently we need labor law reform.

Under current law, the penalties against employers who illegally fire or retaliate against workers who are trying to form a union are a drop in the bucket. As a result, employers routinely retaliate against pro-union workers because they know it will undermine the organizing campaign and they will face no real consequences. To them, it’s simply the cost of doing business.

For the first time in modern history, however, we have the chance to turn this around. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would hold employers accountable and institute civil penalties for violations of the law, including back pay and damages.

The PRO Act would put the decision of whether or not to form a union back where it belongs — in the hands of workers, free from employer interference.

Jake Hummel is president of Missouri AFL-CIO.


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