President Biden’s $2.5 trillion infrastructure plan has certainly caused some stir in the past few weeks. The plan is unprecedented in terms of spending and drastically expands the definition of infrastructure. That could be good or bad, depending on your political leanings.
However, I would like to talk about the expanded union protections built into the proposal. The most current version of the American Jobs Plan includes the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. According to the Administration, "President Biden is calling on Congress to update the social contract that provides workers with a fair shot to get ahead, overcome racial and other inequalities that have been barriers for too many Americans, expand the middle class and strengthen communities." Furthermore, "He is calling on Congress to ensure all workers have a free and fair choice to join a union by passing the [PRO] Act and guarantee union and bargaining right for service workers."
Expanded union protections include giving the National Labor Relations Board the power to fine employers who violate workers’ rights, increased protections for independent contractors, easing restrictions on strikes, and weakening “right to work” laws. Unions in general can help workers increase pay, increase benefits, and improve working conditions. Proponents of union rights are fawning over the bill, while opponents claim the bill could reduce jobs and harm workers who do not wish to pay unions dues.
The reality of it is that union membership has many benefits, including the right to bargain collectively. The process of collective bargaining, otherwise called contract negations, gives unionized workers more power to set and standardize salary, benefits, working conditions, disciplinary procedure, grievance procedures, and other protections, such as “just cause,” that would otherwise be unavailable to the individual worker. Overall, union membership is an advantage to workers all across the country. Yes, you have to pay dues to be a member. However, the benefits far outweigh the cost, making it a very good investment.
Unions have helped many industries, such as construction, manufacturing, transportation, and public safety, become some of the most sought-after jobs with high salaries, good benefits, and high levels of employee protection. According to the Nation Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 14.3 million unionized workers in the United States in 2020. While that number is somewhat lower than the number in 2019, it was greatly disproportionate to the number of non-unionized workers who lost their job due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unionized workers decreased by 2.2 percent from 2019-2020. Non-unionized workers decreased 6.6 percent from 2019-2020. That alone shows how powerful unionized workers can be and how being a member of a union can help keep you employed, even during a crisis. Moreover, if you are laid off as a union worker, there are protections in place to reduce the impact and rules that must be followed before a layoff can even happen. Non-unionized employees enjoy no such protections.
While some may not agree, union membership is good for most employees. President Biden’s infrastructure plan, if passed as is, will expand union rights for everyone. In my opinion, this is a good thing. If you are looking to unionize, please give us a call. We would be happy to help you get the process started, and we would love to represent you.