MOORHEAD — Advocates of organized labor held rallies outside the offices of U.S. senators in Fargo and Moorhead Wednesday, July 21, calling for passage of the PRO Act, proposed legislation backers say would create sweeping changes to federal labor laws and reduce barriers to organizing unions.
The PRO Act was passed by the U.S. House earlier this year, but it so far has not received approval in the U.S. Senate.
Labor leaders and activists made a tour Wednesday of downtown Fargo and Moorhead, holding rallies at each of the four U.S. senate offices in the metro area.
Events outside the Fargo offices of Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, both Republicans, took the form of a call to action on the PRO Act, as neither has indicated support for the bill.
Gatherings outside the Moorhead offices of Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, both Democrats, were essentially thank-you events that acknowledged support the senators have shown for the legislation, which Mark Froemke, president of the Western Minnesota Area Labor Council, described as good for all working people, "union or not."
At one event Wednesday, Froemke read from a statement provided by Smith, a co-sponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.
Smith's statement said in part that the legislation would "inject some badly needed reform into our labor laws in order to strengthen the right to join a union and collectively bargain for improvements in the work place."
Froemke also read from a statement provided by Klobuchar, who described the PRO Act as "the bold action we need to protect and strengthen workers' rights to organize so they can achieve the economic and workplace security they've earned."
At a news conference following the rallies, a woman spoke of how she recently left a job with a local employer after enduring what she described as unfair pressure from management after raising worker concerns.
Shanna Krogh said she was shocked by the reaction she received from managers, especially since she had received only outstanding performance reviews prior to bringing worker concerns forward.
"It's one of those things you can't believe is happening, until it's happening," Krogh said.
Brad Lehto, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, said the PRO Act would stop anti-union actions by employers because it would ensure "real consequences" for employers who violate labor laws.
Asked for comment regarding the PRO Act, Cramer's office referred to a Tweet the senator posted in March, in which he stated The PRO Act, "repackages failed labor policies of the past and would destabilize America's workplaces while stripping workers of their rights."
A statement released by Hoeven's office Wednesday said the PRO Act would override North Dakota’s right-to-work law, "meaning employees in unionized workplaces would no longer be able to choose whether or not they pay dues to the union."
The statement added that Hoeven supports the right of workers to organize and join a union if they choose to, "but they need to have that choice, which is why he does not support the PRO Act."