Durham city council members on Monday night will give voice and document their support for a federal bill that will protect workers who are trying to organize.
The bill, known as the Protecting the Right To Organize Act of 2021, passed in the U.S. House in early March by a 225-206 vote, with five Republicans siding with Democrats in favor of the measure.
The bill, described as the labor movement’s top legislative priority, is expected to falter in the U.S. Senate due to a dearth of Republican support.
Undeterred, Bull City council members have drafted a resolution that calls on North Carolina’s Republican Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr “to encourage and support its timely passage.”
The city council resolution will be made public during the council’s regularly scheduled meeting.
The documented support for union protection comes after its members have repeatedly in the past, through voice and deed, shown their support to the Bull City’s most vulnerable workers, many who have organized under the banner of N.C. Fight for $15 and a Union, including fast food workers, WalMart employees, and the Duke Graduate Students Union.
City council members in 2019 voted to pay more than 200 part-time city employees a living wage and are support local businesses that pay workers a living wage.
The resolution also comes on the heels of a report last week that North Carolina is the sixth worst state in the country for older workers when income, taxes, and healthcare are taken into account.
The INDY also reported recently that the state’s $7.25 minimum wage, poor unemployment benefits, and lack of worker protections puts it at the very bottom of a ranking of the best and worst places to work in the United States.
The council’s resolution notes that the importance of workers’ rights to join or organize a union leads to better pay, with unionized employees earning an average of more than 11 percent more in wages than their non-union peers who have similar educational levels, occupation and experience on the job.
The resolution also points to disparate levels of pay regarding gender and race. Wages for unionized women are nearly six percent higher than non-union women workers.
Meanwhile, wages for Black workers are nearly 14 percent higher than their non-union counterparts, and wages for unionized Hispanic workers are a little over 20 percent higher than non-union Hispanic workers, according to the resolution.
The document also notes that union workers are more likely to have access to employer-sponsored health benefits and greater access to paid sick days.
Moreover, owing to North Carolina being a so-called “right-to-work” state, wages across the board are three percent lower for all workers than in states not saddled with the right to work provision, according to the resolution.
“North Carolina’s right to work law has played a prominent role in the state’s 3.1 percent union membership rate,” which is second-lowest in the country, according to the council’s resolution.
City council members say the pending federal legislation would dismantle barriers to union membership created by right to work laws and give employers and unions “the freedom to form contracts, allowing unions to collect fair-share fees to cover costs of collective bargaining and contract enforcement for the benefit of workers, and allow for meaningful penalties against companies that violate workers’ rights.”
The Bull City officials say the Protect The Right To Organize Act also empowers the National Labor Relations Board “to protect workers from retaliation” and empower the NLRB to enforce its own rulings without waiting on decisions from the federal court of appeals.
If the bill is voted into law it would “prohibit employers from requiring workers to attend captive audience meetings used to intimidate workers [who are] trying to organize or vote to unionize,” the resolution states.
Council members note that the legislation would also allow freelance and “gig” workers “to collectively bargain alongside regular employees.”
The resolution concludes, “Durham City Council stands with workers in Durham and across the country in support of their right to unionize.”
This story has been updated to reflect that the Durham city council meets on Monday night.
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