Pass the PRO law to demand more for all workers


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Joined on left by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaks at a press conference on the Right to Protect Act organization (PRO) at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, February 5. , 2020. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

Discrimination in the workplace is slowing the US economy. In a study by Credit Suisse / McKinsey, companies with a high LGBTQ employee rate outperform less inclusive companies at an average rate of 10%. Yet LGBTQ workers in the United States still face extreme discrimination in the workplace. Unions and strong labor laws help prevent employers from violating civil rights protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. They also help reduce income equality, which the LGBTQ community faces at much higher rates than the non-LGBTQ community. Although the National Labor Rights Law has started to hold employers accountable, the Protection of the Right to Organize Law, or PRO Law, strengthens the power of people to improve their working conditions, pay and benefits. advantages.

The world we live in now strongly favors white straight men in the workplace. Twenty-two percent of LGBTQ people earn less than the federal poverty line of $ 12,000, compared to 16% of non-LGBTQ people. This rate only increases when considering only bisexual women and transgender people, about 30% each. About half of LGBTQ employees believe that being “out” in the workplace could be detrimental to their careers. Forty-three percent chose not to go out, possibly for this reason.

Transgender people face an uphill struggle over rights at work. According to the US Transgender Survey, 77% of those polled said they chose to hide or delay their transitions to keep their transgender status a secret to avoid abuse. Some of these respondents even said they had quit these jobs. Perhaps because of these fears, over 15% of the transgender population is unemployed. In addition to treatment concerns in the workplace, transgender people also face the lack of transitional health care built into insurance policies developed by employers.

Good news, the number of LGBTQ elected officials is on the rise. According to a census conducted by Out for America, nearly 1,000 LGBTQ people hold public office in 2021. Among them, two US senators and nine members of Congress. One of them is Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual congresswoman to serve in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. News like this offers hope for the LGBTQ community to gain better representation of their rights in the workplace and beyond.

One thing that helps the LGBTQ community in their fight for equal labor rights is union representation. Being part of a union is the most important strength of a worker in the fight against unequal treatment, because under union contracts you cannot be fired for gender identity or sexual orientation. Many states, especially those in the southern United States, do not have anti-discrimination laws that prevent this type of discrimination. Therefore, it is up to the union to be a watchdog for the rights of these LGBTQ workers when they often do not have the means to fight against the abuses of their employers on their own.

Without the power of the union to defend workers, very little progress can be made on equal pay, inclusion of diversity, working conditions, etc. The National Labor Rights Act of 1935 made the right to organize a legal protection under federal law. But currently, the NLRA is not pushing hard enough against employers who can quickly restrict employee rights. According to the AFL CIO, employers are breaking the law “in 40% of all unions that hold elections.” At this time, there is no legal way to prevent several management tactics from preventing the formation of unions. These include coercion, lies, dismissals and intimidation. Many employers, for example, organize mandatory meetings where the main topic, and often the only one, is anti-union rhetoric.

Brianna westbrook

This is where the PRO law comes in. As part of the bill, which was passed by the House on March 9, 2021 and received by the Senate on March 11, it expands “the scope of people covered by fair labor standards”, allows labor unions to encourage employees represented by separate trade union organizations to engage in strikes, and restricts the power of employers to take legal action against such organizations. Employers would no longer be able to coerce or mandate anti-union meetings and would ban any agreement for an employee to waive his or her legal collective or class action rights.

By law, this would require employers to inform all new employees of their rights under the national labor rights law and to post those rights where employees congregate. It also requires that all employees – whether unionized or not – contribute to the cost of union representatives bargaining collectively for the benefit of all employees in a company. These steps help employees understand their rights and what they are legally capable of doing to defend their rights.

If the past year and a half has taught us anything about workers’ rights, it is that the service industry demands that its workforce work tirelessly under difficult conditions. Amazon delivery drivers should have used bottled water to urinate in to cope with increasing deliveries and time restrictions. Employees at restaurants and grocery stores have been harassed and even attacked for asking customers to wear masks or show proof of vaccination before entering their buildings. This has led to a sharp increase in the number of people leaving their low-paying jobs to seek better opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that four million people quit their jobs in April 2021 and 40% of workers plan to quit their current jobs next year.

All this to say that we must pass the PRO law to better represent all workers, especially those most vulnerable to discrimination and abuse from employers. The PRO Act extends employee power and in no way limits the economic growth of American businesses. In fact, it improves it. A business that values ​​its workers and the most vulnerable population groups among them can only prosper and grow. Call Senator Kyrsten Sinema to tell him to stand up for LGBTQ workers and support passage of the PRO law.

Brianna Westbrook is a Democratic candidate for state representation for Legislative District 24. She is a transgender rights activist and former vice president of the Arizona Democratic Party.


Julio V. Miller

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