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Workers need stronger labor law protections

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, February 14, 2020

By Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, President,
Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

Workers are growing increasingly frustrated with an economy that is blocking far too many from the American Dream. As work has evolved over the past several decades, the few worker protections that existed at the federal level have become virtually non-existent and are irrelevant to the needs of today’s workforce.

We are seeing rampant wage theft, unsafe working conditions, poverty wages, and no access to real economic security. Families face an immense amount of anxiety day-to-day just trying to live a life of dignity for themselves and their loved ones.

Today’s working people are being purposefully divided along class and racial lines in their workplaces and in their communities.

We know we can come together and overcome these barriers. We are solution- oriented.

One of the most important reforms that would touch the lives of almost all Americans would be to strengthen workplace protections for all workers.

Here, that means everyone coming together and doing their part at all levels of government, from city hall to Washington, D.C. And from the streets to board rooms. We can come together and improve our working conditions.

Minnesota’s working families can’t wait. We can’t wait for impeachment hearings, elections or trickle-down economics. We need real solutions now.

One of the most important reforms that would touch the lives of almost all Americans would be to strengthen workplace protections for all workers.

This is why we are working so passionately to pass labor law reform at the federal level. The current legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate is the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (HR 2474), also referred to as the PRO Act.

February 6, the U.S. House passed the PRO Act with a vote of 224-194. In these politically polarized times, it’s significant to note that five House Republicans joined the Democratic majority to vote “yes,” while  seven Democrats joined the Republican minority to vote “no.”

The votes by Minnesota’s U.S. House delegation split along party lines, however:

DFLers Angie Craig (2nd District), Dean Phillips (3rd District), Betty McCollum (4th District), Ilhan Omar (5th District) and Collin Peterson (7th District), voted for the PRO Act. All but Phillips also signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Republicans Jim Hagedorn (1st District), Tom Emmer (6th District), and Pete Stauber (8th District) voted against the PRO Act.

Bi-partisan support for the bill in the U.S. House offers some hope that bi-partisan support may be possible in the U.S. Senate.

Passing the PRO Act would be a key step in securing any worker protection reform going forward. Among other advances, the PRO Act would:
• Strengthen enforcement when employers interfere with workers’ rights;
• Shorten timelines for workers to vote in a union representation election;
• Require employers to bargain in good faith to reach a collective bargaining agreement;
• Crack down on misclassification of workers as independent contractors.

When the calendar turns over to 2021 with a new Congress, we need to be ready to lead on labor law reform at the federal level from day one. Please help inform your membership, elected officials and candidates of the urgency of this work.

Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou was re-elected December 11, 2019 to a second four-year term as president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

Contact MRLF president Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou at 612-321-5670 or chelsie@minneapolisunions.org.


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