Padilla Supports Legislation to Boost Workers’ Right to Unionize

California is home to over 2.4 million union workers, accounting for 15.9 percent of wage and salary workers in the state

  WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Representative Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) in reintroducing the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act, legislation that would support the right to unionize by prohibiting states from banning union security agreements through “right-to-work” laws.

Twenty-seven states have enacted “right-to-work” laws that prevent unions from collecting dues from non-union members who are covered under a union-negotiated contract. These laws make it more difficult for workers to form unions and fight for higher wages and better working conditions in the states that adopt them, resulting in a 5 percent decrease in unionization rates and a decrease in average wages for all full-time workers of 3.1 percent, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, or about $11,000 a year, according to a report released by Representative Sherman’s office. California is home to over 2.4 million union workers, as of 2021, accounting for 15.9 percent of wage and salary workers in the state.

A similar proposal is included in the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which the lawmakers support and which would protect American workers’ right to organize and negotiate for better wages and working conditions.

“Every worker deserves access to the protections offered by unions, and no state should be able to restrict that right,” said Senator Padilla. “As momentum builds for workers across the country to unionize, I will keep up the fight to ensure that Congress is protecting workers and improving working conditions for all.”

“Republicans and their corporate interest backers have imposed state laws with only one goal: destroy unions and discourage workers from organizing for higher wages, fair benefits, and safer working conditions,” said Senator Warren. “At a time when labor unions are growing in both size, popularity, and delivering real wins for workers, Democrats are making clear that we stand in solidarity with workers everywhere, from Starbucks baristas to Google cafeteria workers and everyone in between.”

“So called ‘right-to-work’ laws are designed to make it difficult to organize a union,” said Congressman Sherman. “This impacts not only workers who want a union – but general wage levels throughout the state. In an ill-conceived effort to attract business, one state after another has adopted these anti-union laws in a race to the bottom. That is why today I’m proud to partner with Senator Warren to reintroduce the National Right to Unionize Act – legislation I’ve introduced in every session of Congress since 2008.”

Senator Padilla is a longtime advocate of equal access to employment, fair wages, the right to organize, and improving workplace safety standards. As a California state senator, Padilla introduced legislation, which was subsequently signed into law, to compel hospitals to adopt a workplace violence prevention plan as a part of the hospital’s overall injury and illness prevention plan. In the U.S. Senate, he has been a strong proponent of the $15 minimum wage and cosponsored the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 to increase the federal minimum wage. He is also a proud cosponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021. Last month, the Senator held an event with Representative Judy Chu in Los Angeles along with union representatives and workers to advocate for federal workplace heat stress protections.

In addition to Padilla, Warren, and Sherman, this legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Duckworth (D-Ill.), Wyden (D-Ore.), Luján (D-N.M.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Booker (D-N.J.), Markey (D-Mass.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Hassan (D-N.H.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Smith (D-Minn.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Cardin (D-Md.), Brown (D-Ohio), Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Representatives Lynch (D-Mass.), Norton (D-DC), Garamendi (D-Calif.), Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Swalwell (D-Calif.), Moulton (D-Mass.), Speier (D-Calif.), Raskin (D-Md.), Brownley (D-Calif.), Kildee (D-Mich.), Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Jayapal (D-Wash.).

The legislation has received support from the following advocacy and expert organizations: The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Steelworkers, Transport Workers Union of America, International Union of Operating Engineers, Communications Workers of America Union, Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, International Association of Machinists, United Food & Commercial Workers Union, and Aerospace Workers, Economic Policy Institute, Worker Power Coalition, and National Employment Law Project.

“Senator Warren’s Nationwide Right To Unionize Act would finally start prioritizing the interests of workers in our nation’s labor laws, which have always been stacked in the favor of employers,” said Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “The brave, essential workers who make up the UFCW can attest to the fact that the best way to improve a workplace has always been for workers to organize, form a union, and fight for their rights together. Right now, thousands upon thousands of Americans are doing exactly that, and, despite all the unfair hurdles they must overcome, workers are successfully organizing in new industries and new workplaces. Passing this bill and rolling back decades upon decades of anti-worker legislation would be one of the single most important steps we can possibly take to empower the American workers that keep this country running.”

“So called “right-to-work” laws have their roots in some of the ugliest parts of our country’s history,” said Rebecca Dixon, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project. “Like so many other workplace laws, “right-to-work” is a policy that was designed to make sure that white people did not have to join unions and join their fates and interests to those of Black workers in the South. Today, these laws operate exactly as intended, and drive down wages and conditions of work in far too many states where large proportions of the working class are people of color. NELP commends Senator Warren for introducing the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act to put an end to this policy and to ensure that all workers, regardless of the state in which they live, can join together with their co-workers and build power to help determine their terms and conditions of work.”

“So-called ‘right-to-work’ laws have nothing to do with guaranteeing anyone a job – these state laws are driven by anti-worker and anti-union forces seeking to undermine the bargaining power, wages, and the rights of working people,” said Matthew Biggs, President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) and IFPTE Secretary-Treasurer Gay Henson. “Our union applauds Senator Warren for reintroducing the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act which restores a core labor standard across the U.S. so that all workers have the right to come together, bargain collectively, and build union power in labor unions that have resources to represent all members.”

“We are living through an incredible moment in history where more and more workers are increasingly interested in bringing the power of a union to their workplaces,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “We have an opportunity to transform the labor movement but only if we do what is required of us in this moment and eliminate the barriers workers face to exercise their power. It is way past time to eliminate the right to work for less laws that corporations have used to systematically chip away at the power of labor unions and the ability of workers to come together and collectively fight to better their lives and the lives of their families. We are encouraged by the leadership of Senator Warren and all the supporters of this legislation and committed to see it through the finish line.”

“AFGE supports the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act,” said AFGE. “AFGE strongly supports the right of all workers to unionize in the workplace to ensure safety, health, and equity on the job.  AFGE applauds Senator Warren for introducing this bill which will bring us one step closer to granting union rights to all workers.”

“Across the country, working people are demanding the freedom to band together and claim a seat at the table – in fact, the latest Gallup Poll shows a 71% approval rating for unions,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “To unrig the system and make it easier to organize, we need to repeal so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws, which are rooted in white supremacy and allow employers to silence the voices of working people. We applaud Senator Warren for pushing back with the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act, which would get these unjust laws off the books and help level the playing field for private-sector workers.”

“A recent Gallup poll showed that 71% of Americans support workers’ right to unionize – and tens of millions of Americans would join a union today if they had the chance,” Chip Shannon, Executive Director, Worker Power Coalition. “Right now, a wave of organizing is sweeping the nation as workers at stores like Starbucks, Amazon, Trader Joes and Apple are standing up and demanding their rights to collectively bargain at the workplace. For far too long, so-called Right to Work laws have restricted workers from fully realizing their abilities to come together in union to fight for better pay, benefits and working conditions. The Worker Power Coalition, which represents 24 million workers from more than 40 labor and social justice organizations is committed to updating our labor laws to better protect workers. We enthusiastically support the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act.”

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