Graphic from Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
Jayanni Webster interviews Daniel Dominguez
The Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act does more than any legislation in decades to strengthen workers’ rights to unionize. Now employers faced with union drives routinely fire worker-organizers, threaten to close facilities, and haul workers into meetings to hear anti-union propaganda on work time. Some of these activities are illegal, but the law is so cumbersome and penalties so light that makes little difference.
The PRO Act includes provisions that would prohibit employer interference in union elections, bar employers from asking workers about their immigration status during the hiring process, and set monetary penalties for executives and companies that violate workers’ rights. It is now before the U.S. Senate. Recognizing that the bill would not only bolster democracy in the workplace but in the country as a whole, a broad coalition has lined up behind it.
One of the groups that has thrown down in a big way behind the PRO Act is the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). On March 31, 2020, Jayanni Webster interviewed Daniel Dominguez for Frontline Dispatches. Dominguez is a member of the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission and the DSA. He works as a labor organizer with the National Union of Healthcare Workers doing external organizing across Southern California. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
DSA very early on made a clear decision to make the PRO Act a national priority during the first 100 days of the new presidential administration. The PRO Act could give workers a more level playing field and help restore organized labor as a major fighting force across the country, making it more possible to win things like the Green New Deal.
Although the labor movement has been on its back feet for several decades due to the restrictive labor law currently in place, organized labor is still an important and vital force for working people everywhere.
In our day-to-day work, we the members of the DSA Labor Steering Committee are embedded in the labor movement in different ways, whether it’s being an organizer for a labor union or being a rank-and-file member and activist within your union.
We have to see the DSA and the labor movement as two vital forces in building a fighting working class. In my chapter in Los Angeles, for example, we have a labor committee which is made up of working class people. Some are in a union, some are not, and we see building labor as a key player in everything we do. It’s not just a discrete issue; it informs every part of our work.
And so the way we’re reaching our members in this campaign to pass the PRO Act is making sure that as many chapters and as many members as possible are plugged into this campaign.
DSA is still a maturing organization and our structures are still maturing so it’s extremely vital for us to be talking to our members. One of the ways we’re doing that is the campaign has a coaching team which is in charge of talking to chapters who have less resources, or who are operating in maybe hostile terrain like the South.
The other way we’re mobilizing our membership is though phone banking. We want to get as many people dialing those five key senators as possible and since DSA has over 80,000 members at this time it’s a lot of people to mobilize.
The analysis that we’re working with comes from experienced organizers in the Painters Union and the Communication Workers of America. There is a path to victory, although it may be narrow. Currently we see five Democrats in the Senate holding this up. [Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mark Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ)]
So that’s the first part of the campaign is about mobilizing voters to get them to call their senators or any other action to get them to raise this as a working-class issue. We recognize that the filibuster is a major to passing any progressive legislation. I don’t want to walk into this campaign or ask anyone to walk into it with blind optimism. I think we’re living through a period of unrest and it’s our job to organize as DSA and labor to fight for the PRO Act.