We need the PRO Act Alaska’s working families need fairness and opportunity
BY Joelle Hall, President, Alaska AFL-CIO
I don’t know about your family, but if you’re like my neighbors and friends, this hasn’t been an easy year. Many of us have lost friends and loved ones. We’ve lost hours at work. We’ve taken on extra costs to support family members who need it most, and some of us have been sicker than we ever have been in our lives.
The pandemic has been catastrophic, it’s true, but it wasn’t all roses before, and ending COVID-19 won’t fix our broken economy. The truth is this: When I see folks in our state, I wonder what kind of future we’re building for them. What kind of jobs will Alaska have to offer our young people?
The Alaska economy must do more than build a new Port of Alaska, new pipelines, and new buildings. We must do more than teach classes, nurse people back to health, serve food, and service aircrafts. These jobs also must be good enough to build and support lives and families, homes, and happiness.
The answer, I believe, is uniquely American. It’s unionism. Every single member of every single labor union in Alaska and all across America has a voice on pay, benefits, working conditions, and much more. The workers and the boss work out their differences and agree to a contract that benefits both. Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work and will work when the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act becomes law. Right now, some bad employers stall, harass and fire workers who try to form unions, and never end up agreeing to anything at the bargaining table. This is not what the authors of the original labor law, the National Labor Relations Act, intended to happen, and it’s not what working people deserve. That’s why it’s time for a revival of workers’ rights.
The PRO Act has passed the U.S. House with the help of our Congressman Don Young and is now in the hands of the Senate. And it is clear workers everywhere want it: 65% of Americans want unions to play a larger role in public life, according to a Gallup poll that’s been tracking union support for nearly a century. A recent poll found that 73 percent of voters—including 59 percent of Republicans—support the right to collectively bargain. And a very recent survey shows that nearly 72% of Alaskans want the PRO Act to pass. Ever since Alaska became a state, this has been a place where you could work hard for good pay, enough to build a great life. We have always been a union state because we understand that unionism and freedom go hand-in-hand. This isn’t a Democratic or a Republican thing. This is how Alaskans are made. With the PRO Act in place, more working people in Alaska will share in the wealth we help create, and keep Alaskan families strong.
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