Franken Helps Introduce Legislative Proposal to Strengthen Protections for Workers

For Immediate Release:September 16, 2015Contact:Michael Dale-Steinmichael@franken.senate.gov202-224-2916 Sen. Franken Helps Introduce Legislative Proposal to Strengthen Protections for WorkersBill Would Crack Down on Employers Who Break the Law When Workers Exercise Basic Right to Collective ActionWASHINGTON, D.C. [09/16/15]—Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) helped introduce new legislation to strengthen protections for workers who want to raise wages and improve workplace conditions.  The Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act, originally sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would amend the National Labor Relations Act to help ensure that workers have a voice in the workplace, and would crack down on employers who break the law when workers exercise their basic right to collective action.  “We rely on workers in Minnesota and around the country to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy,” said Sen. Franken. “But unfortunately, our laws don’t always do enough to support middle-class families or those aspiring to be in the middle class. My job on the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee is to fix that problem, which is what our new legislation would help to do. The WAGE Act gives workers a stronger voice in the workplace by bolstering protections for all workers, union and non-union, who want to bargain for better wages and a safer workplace.”  Sen. Franken has long fought for federal policies to protect the American worker. Earlier this year, he helped introduce a measure that would allow workers to earn paid sick leave. Also this year, he introduced a bill to modernize the Occupational Safety and Health Act to expand the number of safe workplaces and make it harder to violate workplace safety laws.Summary of the WAGE Act  Real, long-term economic growth comes from the middle out, not the top down, and our government, economy, and workplaces should work for all families, not just the wealthiest few. Collective bargaining rights and unions have been key drivers in economic security, and for decades, unions have helped millions of families climb into the middle class. But over the past few decades, workers’ wages have stagnated, and many families struggle to make ends meet. At the same time, too many employers take advantage of weak worker protections to prevent them from advocating for improvements in their workplace. The penalties that are supposed to protect workers do little to deter employers from breaking the law.The Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act to strengthen protections for workers who want to organize and promote change through forming a union or other collective action. The WAGE Act would provide stronger protections for all workers, whether they are part of a union or not, who want to talk with their coworkers about equal pay, advocate for safety improvements, or increase wages. The WAGE Act removes perverse incentives for employers to break the law by increasing remedies for workers and would impose new penalties on employers who act illegally. When workers can exercise basic worker rights without interference from their employers, it will expand economic security and help ensure the economy grows from the middle out, not the top down.The WAGE Act would strengthen protections for workers and better protect workers’ fundamental right to join together with their co-workers and advocate for change by:·           Tripling the backpay that employers must pay to workers who are fired or retaliated against by their employers, regardless of immigration status. ·           Providing workers with a private right of action to bring suit to recover monetary damages and attorneys’ fees in federal district court, just as they can under civil rights laws.  ·           Providing for federal court injunctions to immediately return fired workers to their jobs.·           Ensuring employers will be jointly responsible for violations affecting workers supplied by another employer. The WAGE Act would put an end to the perverse incentives for employers to interfere with workers’ rights by:·            Establishing civil penalties up to $50,000 for employers who commit unfair labor practices and doubled penalties for repeat violations. This would bring the NLRA in line with other workplace laws.·            Giving the National Labor Relations Board authority to impose penalties on officers and directors of employer violators·            Allowing the Board to issue a bargaining order upon finding that an employer prevented a free and fair election, provided that a majority of employees signed authorization cards within the previous 12 months·            Setting a 30-day time limit for employers to challenge an NLRB decision, after which the NLRB decision becomes final and binding unless a court directs otherwise. The NLRB could then go directly to district court to enforce its orders.This legislation would ensure workers know their rights in the workplace by:·           Requiring employers to inform workers of their rights under the NLRA by posting a notice developed by the NLRB and informing workers of their rights at the time of hiring.