PRO Act would require workers to join unions, faces opposition from 14 state attorneys general

GOP congressmen meet with law enforcement, hold press conference in Texas border city

GOP Reps. Tony Gonzales and Jim Banks meet with law enforcement and sheriffs and hold a press conference in Eagle Pass, Texas.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is leading a 14-state coalition of attorneys general in opposition to a bill that would compel workers to join unions.

The bill, "Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021," or PRO Act, would negate state right-to-work laws and require workers to pay union dues in order to keep their jobs.

"Our nation has always been one of opportunity that rewards individual choice, ingenuity, and initiative," Wilson said in a letter signed by 13 other state attorneys general. "Our laws have long preserved the ability of employees to speak for themselves, to make informed decisions, and to work without being forced to pay fees to third parties."

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is leading a 14-state coalition of attorneys general in opposition to a bill that would compel workers to join unions. (Getty Images)

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The PRO Act passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives last year but was never taken up by the then-Republican majority Senate. Democrats are now in a narrow majority and the bill is unlikely to receive enough votes to overcome a filibuster. 

Advocates of the measure say it would bolster collective bargaining rights. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told NPR last month the bill would be a "game changer." 

"If you really want to correct inequality in this country – wages and wealth inequality, opportunity and inequality of power – passing the PRO Act is absolutely essential to doing that," he said. 

The letter from the attorneys general warned that the bill, if enacted, would "undermine state laws, overturn longstanding federal law, create constitutional concerns, and unfairly coerce employees into a union environment rife for abuse of individual employees."

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The letter cited landmark cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down unions’ attempt to fight right-to-work laws, which guarantee that no worker can be compelled as a condition of employment, to join or not to join, nor to pay dues to a labor union.

"As the Attorneys General for our respective states, we are responsible for the upholding of laws for the benefit of the citizens of our states," the attorneys general wrote. "One such law guards the freedom of employees to keep their jobs regardless of whether they decide to pay union dues or not." 

The letter was addressed to Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Health, Education and Labor and Pensions Committee members Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Richard Burr, R-N.C.

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The letter was signed by the following attorneys general: Douglas Peterson of Nebraska, Chris Carr of Georgia, Ashley Moody of Florida, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, Daniel Cameron of Kentucky, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Derek Schmidt of Kansas, Steve Marshall of Alabama, Mike Hunter of Oklahoma, Lynn Fitch of Mississippi, Eric S. Schmitt of Missouri, and Sean Reyes of Utah.

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