Maui News

Hirono Lauds Labor Law Reforms

February 8, 2020, 1:00 PM HST
* Updated February 8, 10:35 AM
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US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono applauded the US House of Representatives for passing landmark, progressive labor law reforms in the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474), and joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 15 Senate Democrats in introducing the Nationwide Right to Unionize Act (S. 3255).

The Nationwide Right to Unionize Act would strengthen workers’ rights and unions by invalidating “right-to-work” laws already on the books in 27 states and prohibiting states from passing them in the future.

“Right-to-work” laws require unions to represent workers who refuse to pay dues.

Hirono says these laws place tremendous strain on unions by draining them of the financial resources they need to advocate for their members.

The Nationwide Right to Unionize Act works in concert with Hirono’s own legislation, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which ensures that American public sector employees can legally join a union and can bargain collectively.

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“Unions are essential to lifting millions of Americans into the middle class, particularly women and people of color,” Hirono said in a press release.

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“While Hawaiʻi has strong labor protections in our state constitution, federal labor law should better protect workers and their right to organize and have their voices heard. The Nationwide Right to Unionize Act does just that.”

Hawaiʻi’s State Constitution protects the right to collectively bargain both for private sector and public sector workers.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statics, Hawaiʻi now ranks No. 1 in the nation for union membership by percentage, with about 24 percent of all workers directly belonging to a union and for total percentage of workers covered by union contracts, which was 26 percent.

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The same report shows that union membership makes a difference when it comes to pay, with the national average median weekly wages of union members at $1,095, nearly 23 percent higher than non-union members at $892.

Over the last 40 years, the share of workers represented by unions has dropped in half, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

EPI also reports that full-time workers in states with “right-to-work” laws earn 3 percent less than similar workers in states that do not have these laws. These wage discrepancies are even greater for people of color.

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