Larry Sillanpa

Last week Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act, legislation to strengthen protections for workers who want to raise wages and improve workplace conditions.

The WAGE Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act to help ensure workers are able to 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.

“Too often, as workers are underpaid, overworked, and treated unfairly on the job, some companies are doing everything they can to prevent them from having a voice in the workplace,” said Senator Murray. “The WAGE Act would strengthen protections for all workers and it would finally crack down on employers who break the law when workers exercise their basic right to collective action.”

“The WAGE Act is a critical first step in addressing both a changing economy and labor laws that have failed to keep up with a changing workplace,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “The economy is a set of rules that for too long have been rigged against working people. The WAGE Act is about changing these rules – for all working people, whether they’re in a union or not. It’s a bold first step and a key thread to the larger fabric of the raising wages agenda.”

The WAGE Act would 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.