Policy Series: Ensuring the Right to Unionize for Well-Being

Ensuring the Right to Unionize for Well-Being is part of the Equitable Economies Policy Series, a multi-part policy series developed by Well-being and Equity in the World (WE in the World), and brought to you in partnership with the Well Being In the Nation Network (WIN Network). The policy series explores priority policies within the Advancing Equitable Economies Policy Library that can be leveraged to create more equitable, well-being economies in the U.S.

Advancing More Equitable Economies in the U.S.

There are racial, place, and class-based wealth and health gaps in our economy. Racism and other discrimination cause inequalities in opportunities for people of color, women, and others. Where you live affects your access to education, jobs, and other factors that support your wellbeing. These inequities play a role in shaping the economy, society, and opportunity. Equitable economies will improve health and wellbeing for all. It will ensure that all people have just opportunities for a fulfilling life over generations.

Ensuring the Right to Unionize for Well-Being explains how protecting and expanding workers’ right to unionize can advance more equitable economies, producing meaningful work environments that promote health and well-being. It outlines the policy, explains why it is an important solution and how it would work. It also navigates to resources that support policymakers who want to create more equitable, well-being economies in the U.S.

Ensuring the Right to Unionize Contributes to a Well-Being Economy

All workers should have the right to form a union. Unions can advocate for fair working conditions, pay, and benefits. Employers should not be able to stop workers from creating a union. Employers should also not be able to interfere where must be quality jobs that pay a living wage with opportunities for career growth and development. Autonomy and control over one’s life are associated with positive health outcomes, and social support in the work environment enhances psychological and physical health. On the other hand, job insecurity is associated with poor health outcomes, contributing to racial and socioeconomic health disparities. Unions help members gain control over their scheduling and job security, and union membership is associated with increased democratic participation.

Ensuring the Right to Unionize Promotes Worker Power

The right to organize and join a union is, for most employees, a fundamental employment protection under federal and state labor laws. Now is the time to ensure that a well-being economy is built with equity in mind, putting people on a pathway out of poverty and into prosperity, ensuring all people and all places thrive. Ensuring the right to unionize can help.

  • Federal and state labor laws prohibit most employers from coercing, prohibiting, or otherwise interfering with employees’ protected organizing activities.
  • The law forbids most employers from taking actions meant to discourage union activity.
  • High unionization levels are associated with positive outcomes across multiple indicators of economic, personal, and democratic well-being.
  • Unions give workers a voice at work, with a direct impact on wages and working conditions. Unions also give workers a voice in shaping their communities. Where workers have this power, states have more equitable economic structures, social structures, and democracies.
  • Unless advocates and policymakers are thoughtful about policy design and implementation, new workforce investments may not improve our legacies of environmental and economic injustice.

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The Right to Unionize
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Right to Unionize and the PRO Act

Existing labor law makes mounting a successful unionization drive exceedingly difficult anywhere in the county. The PRO Act can go a long way to changing all that. In addition to increasing union-busting penalties and increasing the National Labor Review Board’s budget, PRO Act provisions can help level the playing field by reinstitution card check elections — meaning a majority of workers could avoid all the captive audience meetings and plethora of other intimidation tactics anti-union companies use during long and protracted ballot elections — and organize simply by signing enough union cards expressing their will.

Impact of the PRO Act

So-called right-to-work laws in more than two dozen states allow workers in union-represented workplaces to opt out of the union, and not pay union dues. At the same time, such workers are still covered under the wage and benefits provisions of the union contract. The PRO Act would allow unions to override such laws and collect dues from those who opt out, in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining and administration of the contract.

Employer interference and influence in union elections would be forbidden. Company-sponsored meetings — with mandatory attendance — are often used to lobby against a union organizing drive. Such meetings would be illegal. Additionally, employees would be able to cast a ballot in union organizing elections at a location away from company property.

Often, even successful union organizing drives fail to result in an agreement on a first contract between labor and management. The PRO Act would remedy that by allowing newly certified unions to seek arbitration and mediation to settle such impasses in negotiations.

The law would prevent an employer from using its employee's immigration status against them when determining the terms of their employment.

It would establish monetary penalties for companies and executives that violate workers' rights. Corporate directors and other officers of the company could also be held liable.

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Right-To-Work Resources
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Unions and the Well-Being Economy

Ensuring the right to unionize can contribute to a well-being economy. An equitable well-being economy is a living system. It rests on the basic goal of all people and places thriving together--with no exceptions. It is an economy that is just, regenerative, multiracial. It values all stakeholder interests. An equitable economy rebalances power. It provides what everyone needs to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. A well-being economy provides opportunity for freedom, voice, power, ownership. It leads to a fulfilling life over generations for everyone. An economy that addresses inequities due to racism, colonialism and other discrimination creates the conditions for everyone to thrive together. Labor unions and ensuring more worker power can help people and communities first and foremost and offer a promising path toward greater social well-being and health.

From the Equitable Economies Library

This Equitable Economies policy brief by the WIN Network draws on the Advancing Equitable Economies Policy Library to help drive action around important policy themes.

Visit the Advancing Equitable Economies Policy Library for more policy briefs and to explore hundreds of policy strategies that have the potential to bring us closer to an equitable, well-being economy for all.

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Economic Democracy Policy Guide
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Advancing Equitable Economies Policy Library
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Published on 04/20/2021
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Ensure the Right to Unionize
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Published on 04/16/2021
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The Right To Organize and Join a Union
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