Fighting Back Against Trump Administration’s Efforts to Undermine Workers’ Rights, Murray, Brown Introduce WAGE Act to Strengthen Worker Protections
Senators Murray, Brown introduce bill to protect workers’ freedom to negotiate and speak up, stop companies from retaliating against workers
The WAGE Act would strengthen protections for all workers and would penalize companies that break the law by attempting to stop workers from exercising their fundamental right to collective action
As President Trump and Congressional Republicans continue to undermine worker protections, the WAGE Act would empower workers to speak up for better working conditions without fear of retaliation from companies
(Washington, D.C.) – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act today to strengthen workers’ rights to form or join a union, speak up together for better wages and conditions, and bargain collectively with their employers. The WAGE Act would protect all workers who wish to advocate for equal pay, safety improvements, or increase wages—and would crack down on corporations who try to interfere or retaliate against them. As President Trump continues to roll back worker protections and make it easier for corporations to take advantage of workers, the WAGE Act would give workers a voice on the job and the freedom to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment.
“The Trump Administration’s attacks on unions and working families show that it is willing to undermine the middle class in order help wealthy corporations increase their profits—even if those profits are made on the backs of their workers,” said Senator Murray. “We will not be able to grow our economy as long as workers are being underpaid, overworked, or treated unfairly on the job, so I’m proud to introduce the WAGE Act today to once again give workers a voice to join together advocate for themselves.”
“All workers deserve to have a voice where they work so they can bargain for better pay and protections at work. At a time when our workers are working harder for less, we should make it easier for them to form a union, and we should crack down on employers who try to deny them their freedom to organize,” said Senator Brown.
First introduced by Senator Murray in 2015, the WAGE Act defends workers’ fundamental right to join together with their co-workers and advocate for change by giving more protections and recourse to workers who are illegally fired. It also creates tougher penalties for employers who interfere with workers’ collective bargaining rights. Further, the WAGE Act requires companies to post a notice to inform workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
“Our nation’s current system of labor laws no longer protects working people,” said Celine McNicholas, Labor Counsel at the Economic Policy Institute. “The WAGE Act helps to address this by strengthening protections for workers and cracking down on employers who illegally fire employees who join with their coworkers to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Collective bargaining has been a key element in creating a fair economy. We need legislation like the WAGE Act to protect this fundamental right.”
“All working people must have the freedom to join together and negotiate with their employers for better wages and working conditions,” said William Samuel of AFL-CIO. “Unfortunately, these freedoms are denied to too many workers because our laws are weak and employers exploit them to deny workers these basic freedoms. As a result, our economy is weaker, income inequality is at historic levels and working people are not getting the pay raises they need to support their families. Congress must rewrite the rules to guarantee all who work in America the freedom to form unions and negotiate free from fear, intimidation and interference, and the WAGE Act takes a meaningful first step.”
Since 2015, the bill has been updated to prevent the misclassification workers as supervisors or independent contractors, which strips them of their fundamental labor rights. Additionally, as many workers never even reach an initial contract with their employer, the WAGE Act also guarantees workers’ freedom to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment by keeping companies at the bargaining table. Many of the tenets of the WAGE Act were included in Democrats’ broad, progressive labor reform agenda released earlier this month, “Give Workers the Freedom to Negotiate a Better Deal.”
FACT SHEET: The Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act
To create long-term economic growth, we must ensure our government, economy, and workplaces are working for all families, not just the wealthiest few. Unions and collective bargaining rights have been critical in creating economic security for working families, and for decades, unions have helped millions of families climb into the middle class. But over the past few decades, workers’ bargaining power has declined, their wages have stagnated, and today, many families are struggling to make ends meet. This has led to the greatest level of income inequality since the Great Depression. At the same time, too many companies take advantage of weak worker protections to prevent workers from advocating for improvements in their workplace. The penalties that are supposed to protect workers do little to deter companies 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 strengthens penalties against companies that illegally retaliate against their workers for speaking up and expands the legal remedies available to wronged workers.. Additionally, even when workers succeed in exercising their right to form a union, barely over half ever reach a first contract with their employer. The WAGE Act will encourage first contracts by requiring mediation and binding dispute resolution when companies fail to reach agreements with newly certified unions. 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 remedies for workers and better protect workers’ fundamental right to join together with their co-workers and advocate for change by:
- Tripling the backpay that companies must pay to workers who they illegally fire or retaliate against, regardless of workers’ 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 companies will be jointly responsible for violations affecting workers supplied by another company.
- Preventing misclassification of workers as supervisors or independent contractors, which strips them of their fundamental labor rights.
THE WAGE Act would guarantee workers’ freedom to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment by:
- Giving workers the option to require mediation to encourage agreement when they fail to reach a first contract with their employer.
- Requiring binding dispute resolution when mediation fails to produce a first contract agreement between the employer and newly certified union.
The WAGE Act would strengthen penalties against companies that interfere with workers’ rights by:
- Establishing civil penalties up to $50,000 for companies that 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 companies that violate the law.
- Allowing the Board to issue a bargaining order upon finding that a company prevented a free and fair election, provided that a majority of workers demonstrated support for the union within the previous 12 months.
- Setting a 30-day time limit for companies 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 companies 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.
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