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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Businesses want Congress to support safe, quality jobs — so do nearly all Americans

There’s nothing new about lawmakers in Washington using the business community as a shield for taking unpopular positions. As business leaders, we’ve gotten used to politicians putting words in our mouths on everything from tax policy to health care and beyond.

Now, some members of Congress are once again pointing to businesses to justify their opposition to the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act — legislation which would promote safe, quality, well-paying jobs for workers across the economy.

When asked about the PRO Act earlier this year, Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) explained: “The way I make decisions on behalf of Arizona and for our constituents is by listening to the business leaders.”

Sinema and any other member of Congress undecided about the PRO Act must understand: lifting up workers is good for business. It is a pathway to creating economic equity in local communities throughout America, in every zip code, contributing to a national GNP that is still 70 percent consumer-based. When employers and employees work together, there is a clear business advantage resulting in greater retention, lower training costs and a more experienced workforce. 

In addition, statistics show when labor and management work together, they raise productivity by 16 percent in hospitals, between 19 and 24 percent in manufacturing, and between 17 and 38 percent in the construction sector.

Business benefits when workers who have a voice and vote are better trained, exhibit higher morale, retain at higher and longer rates, and are more resilient, putting the country on a path to a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

As business leaders, we support safe, quality jobs for workers in the U.S., and that’s why we must pass the PRO Act now more than ever.

As it stands, too many workers feel powerless in their jobs because they fear being fired at will. According to new polling across nine battleground states — Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin — an astounding 79 percent of voters support strengthening penalties for companies that retaliate against employees.

The polling also found that 71 percent of voters also support making it easier for employees to form a union in their workplace. What’s more, the majority of voters in these swing states support the PRO Act across party lines.

The elected leaders in these states will be crucial to securing majority support in the Senate for the PRO Act. But a few hold outs, including Sens. Mark KellyMark KellyGOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment Conservative group targets Kelly, Hassan over .5T spending plan The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by AT&T – US speeds evacuations as thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan MORE (D-Ariz.), Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSupreme Court ruling on Texas abortion law rattles lawmakers GOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda Klobuchar: Senate needs to eliminate filibuster to protect abortion rights MORE (D-Ariz.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHouse committee votes to temporarily postpone Space Command relocation Industry lobbies Congress to extend notification timeline after cybersecurity incidents PRO Act threatens Virginians’ right to work MORE (D-Va.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump endorses challenger to Herrera Beutler over impeachment vote Biden hands GOP rare unity moment in post-Trump era House approves John Lewis voting rights measure MORE (R-Alaska) still fail to recognize how essential — and favored — this legislation is to their constituents.

Those in opposition argue that anyone who wants to join a union is free to do so. If that’s the case, why do only one-in-ten U.S. workers actually have a union today, when close to half of all U.S. workers say they would join one if they could?

Because employers escape from the consequences of union-busting scot-free.

The PRO Act would change that, for the first time enacting meaningful penalties on companies who interfere with workers’ rights to organize or advocate for themselves.

And it would give high road employers an opportunity to level the playing field with competitors who exploit, diminish and deprive their employees of basic rights in the workplace.

Even the controversial elements of the PRO Act that have come under fire from opponents of the bill, including limiting the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, allowing workers to form a union with majority sign up after employer labor law violations, and creating first contract binding arbitration, saw 60 percent favorability at the very least.

While some have criticized the PRO Act as legislation that will hurt freelancers and independent contractors, forcing them to abandon their 1099 status and become W-2 employees or lose work, and give up their ability to negotiate rates. This is simply untrue. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) confirms that the PRO Act would not take away freedom or force any worker to give up their gig or freelance work, does not end contractor designation and does not change a worker’s employment status that impacts state benefits like workers’ compensation or unemployment.

What the PRO Act would do, is give freelancers the ability to form unions if they choose, helping them lock in those good rates, as well as benefits. 

Working people are the engines of our economy, and our customers. When workers have more money in their pockets, they spend it in our economy. When they have good benefits, they will stay on the job and help our businesses to grow. 

Economists agree the PRO Act makes sense too. When we lift up workers through job security and spending power, we lift up the entire economy as well.

The imbalance of power between large corporations and employees cannot be solved without major national legislation and we are demanding our senators take note of that and step up to support the PRO Act so we can create a stronger economy.

David Levine is president and co-founder of American Sustainable Business Council.

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