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House delegation backs workers’ rights bill

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The three members of New Mexico’s U.S. House delegation voted in favor of an act they said protected the rights of workers who seek better pay, better benefits and safer working conditions.

U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland, Ben Ray Luján and Xochitl Torres Small – all Democrats – voted in favor of the PRO Act, which cleared the House last week.

“Unions are the reason working men and women have access to safety standards, health care and higher wages – and we must protect the right of workers to organize to negotiate freely for increased pay and improved benefits,” said Luján, who noted his family’s history as union members.

In explaining her vote, Torres Small said it was clear the economy was not working for all New Mexicans.

“For hundreds of years, unions have provided workers with the tools to ensure fairness and advocate for a better living,” she said. “This bill is an important step toward protecting workers, and ensuring that hard work is respected and valued in both city centers and rural areas like mine.

“Workers should never be taken advantage of by their employers, but loose labor laws and anti-union legislation make it possible for employers to profit off their workers and inequality to soar,” Haaland added. “We passed the PRO Act to ensure workers have the power to stand together for a fair share of the profits they produce.”

According to Haaland’s and Torres Small’s offices, the PRO Act expands federal protections for a worker’s right to join a union. Specifically, they said the bill will: introduce meaningful, enforceable penalties for companies and executives that violate workers’ rights and discourage the formation of unions; protect and expand workers’ power to stand together and negotiate for fair wages, better benefits and safer working conditions, and closes loopholes that corporations use to exploit workers; and strengthen workers’ access to fair union elections and require corporations to respect the results.

But National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix criticized the legislation in a news release.

If enacted, his organization said, the bill would create a back-door way for unions to organize and impose a union on workers without even the minimal protection of a secret ballot election. The organization said the legislation would enable union leaders to establish monopoly bargaining, forcing all workers – even those who wish to have no part of the union – to accept union representation.

“The American people overwhelmingly oppose the provisions of this so-called ‘PRO Act,’ ” Mix said.

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