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Opinion: We need the PRO Act. Here’s why

The hard-working men and women of Alaska’s building trades need the PRO Act.

  • Monday, August 2, 2021 2:30am
  • Opinion

By Corey Baxter

The hard-working men and women of Alaska’s building trades need the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

The PRO Act was passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year — including support from Rep. Don Young.

The PRO Act, put simply, would renew the promise made in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 — that workers have “full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.”

The right to freely and fairly organize is a patriotic belief, not a partisan one. Union members vote for both political parties, and we live in red and blue communities. My union, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, has endorsed Republicans, Democrats and independents. Unionism transcends ideology, and it transcends any one issue.

In an era of extreme polarization, Alaskans are overwhelmingly supportive of labor unions. And recent polling showed that 72% of likely Alaskan voters support the PRO Act. Labor unifies Alaska, and it unifies Juneau.

The PRO Act would end the worst practices of employers, like the misclassification of workers to deprive them of basic benefits and protections, like forcing workers to sit through union-bashing sessions, like firing workers who have the courage to speak up about unsafe working conditions.

The PRO Act is a generational opportunity for the thousands of Alaskans who want to join a union but haven’t found the path to get there under current law.

Working people deserve a voice on the job and at the bargaining table. They deserve fair wages and safe working conditions. And that is why I am calling on our U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to support the PRO Act.

• Corey Baxter is the District 8 representative for Operating Engineers Local 302. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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