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Labor Leaders: PRO Act Would Boost Working Women

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021   

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Midwestern union leaders say before and after the pandemic, women have dealt with a variety of challenges in the workforce, but they say a proposed federal law could give them more power to organize and demand fairness.

Last month, the U.S. House approved the PRO Act, which among other things, would bar employer interference and influence in union elections.

Sue Martin, President/Secretary-Treasurer for the Nebraska State AFL-CIO, said in workplaces such as meatpacking plants, there is a lack of union protection, leaving women behind in making advancements.

"Many women are passed up for promotions by their basically dominated male supervisors because of favoritism, or for whatever reason," Martin asserted.

She contended by removing barriers to organize, more labor contracts could be drafted to include language addressing fairness issues.

The PRO Act would also counteract "right-to-work" laws in nearly 30 states, including North Dakota. Opponents of the proposal say those state laws protect a worker's individual rights, while arguing the federal plan would remove flexibility for those wanting to pursue side ventures.

Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, President of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, said given the career setbacks women have encountered during the crisis, now's the time to step up for families.

She noted even with vaccinations rolling out, working mothers are still weighing how to juggle child care and their jobs.

"This broken care system was not OK before the pandemic, it's definitely not OK during the pandemic, and it should not be OK after the pandemic," Glaubitz Gabiou emphasized.

She argued an increase in unions could establish more protections in the area of child care.

The North Dakota AFL-CIO is also among the groups calling for passage of the measure.

While the PRO Act did clear the House and has support from President Joe Biden, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, and there's strong opposition from business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation.


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