Yesterday, Matthew D. Loeb, International President, IATSE sent a letter urging Members of Congress to support the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, H.R. 2474, and to oppose weakening amendments and any Motion to Recommit when the House of Representatives considers the bill this week. The letter was sent to all members of the House of Representatives ahead of the expected PRO Act vote on Thursday, February 6.
His comments are as follows:
On behalf of the approximately 125,000 American members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), I urge you to support the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, H.R. 2474, and to oppose weakening amendments and any Motion to Recommit when the House of Representatives considers the bill. The PRO Act will restore fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal laws that give working people a voice on the job so they can negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, a more secure retirement and a safer workplace.
Too often, when workers choose to form a union, employers stall the bargaining process to avoid reaching an agreement – as evidenced by riggers in the Pacific Northwest employed by Rhino Staging Northwest who voted in 2015 to be represented by Local 15 of the IATSE, but today still don’t have a contract.
These riggers – who work high above stages, on scaffolding or catwalks, installing complex lighting and audio equipment – followed state and federal labor laws, and over many years organized themselves. Fed up with low pay, no employer-funded healthcare, and unsafe working conditions they voted to unionize.
Yet, after these workers voted for the union, Rhino refused to bargain in good faith as required by federal labor law. Rhino challenged the union before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and in federal court. It lost. It has stalled and delayed and still today has not entered into a contract.
This is just one example of how some employers have been able to violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) with impunity, routinely denying workers their basic right to join with coworkers for fairness on the job. Time after time, employers get away with it.
The PRO Act would establish a process for mediation and arbitration to help the parties achieve a first contract. This important change would make the freedom to negotiate a reality for countless workers who form unions but never get to enjoy the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement.
The PRO Act would modernize the NLRA by bringing its remedies in line with other workplace laws. In addition to imposing financial penalties on companies and individual corporate officers who violate the law, the bill would give workers the option of bringing their case to federal court.
Under the bill, once workers vote to form a union, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would be authorized to order that the employer commence bargaining a first contract. These orders would be enforced in district courts to ensure swift justice. In addition, the bill would ensure that employees are not deprived of their right to a union because their employer hides behind a subcontractor or other intermediary, or deliberately misclassifies them as supervisors or independent contractors.
The bill would also eliminate “right to work” laws; prohibit mandatory “captive audience” meetings; and protect the right to strike, among other provisions.
The PRO Act is a top priority for the IATSE, we urge you to support this bill and help us build an economy that works for all working families.