January 29, 2020

Senator Warren and Rep. Sherman Announce the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act

Bill Would Ban So-Called "Right-to-Work" Laws That Harm Workers Rights and Wages

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) announced the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act, legislation that prohibits states from passing so-called “right-to-work” laws that make it harder for workers to form unions and fight for higher wages and better working conditions by requiring unions to represent workers who don’t pay dues, draining the unions financially and making it harder to convince new workers to join. Originally introduced as the Protecting Workers and Improving Labor Standards Act, the bill would repeal Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows states to ban agreements requiring workers to join a union as a condition of employment. Additional Senate cosponsors include Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn). House cosponsors include Representatives Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Antonio Cárdenas (D-Calif.), William Lacy Clay, Jr. (D-Mo.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.).

A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that a typical full-time worker in states with “right-to-work” laws earns wages that are 3.1% lower than comparable workers in states without these laws—and this drop in average wages is greater for workers of color. The study also found that states with “right-to-work” laws have a 5-percentage point difference than non-“right-to-work” ones.

“I support workers all the way as they join together and fight for their future,” Senator Warren said. “I’m glad to partner with Congressman Sherman on a bill that would protect workers across the country and ban states from imposing restrictions that drive down wages by preventing workers from unionizing.”

“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 I’ve introduced the National Right to Unionize Act in every session of Congress since 2008. And, it is why Senator Warren’s years of effort to pass this legislation in the Senate are so important.”

The Economic Policy Institute endorses the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act.

“Research shows that so-called right-to-work laws lower workers’ wages--which is no surprise, given that unions raise wages and the intended effect of right-to-work laws is to hamstring unions. Working people are now losing around $200 billion per year as a result of the erosion of union coverage in recent decades. Banning right-to-work is a crucial step in halting and reversing those trends and creating an economy that works for all, not just for the people who already have the most.” -- Heidi Shierholz, Senior Economist and Director of Policy at the Economic Policy Institute

As an advocate for workers, Senator Warren is an original cosponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. She also recently denounced the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proposed rule to deny workplace rights to graduate students employed by private universities, has also cosponsored legislation to strengthen protections for employees under federal labor law and supported graduate student unionization efforts at schools in Massachusetts, including Harvard and Boston College. In addition, she has fought for the enforcement of ethics rules at the NLRB, and strongly opposed efforts by the NLRB to narrow its joint employer standard in the Hy-Brand case, which was vacated after the senator raised concerns about a conflict of interest involving a board member.