The U.S. House of Representatives passed organized labor’s top legislative priority March 9—the Protect The Right To Organize (PRO) Act, HR 842. The vote was 225-206, with five Republicans joining all but one Democrat in support. The anti-union Democrat was Henry Cuellar of Texas. The pro-union Republicans were Brian Fitzpatrick (Penn.), John Katko (NY), Christopher Smith (NJ), Jefferson Van Drew (NJ), and Don Young (Alaska). Oregon U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer were co-sponsors.
The House passed a similar PRO Act bill in February 2020 by a margin of 224-194. At that time, Oregon U.S. Rep Kurt Schrader was one of seven Democrats to vote against it. But after facing considerable pressure from working people in his district he changed his vote the second time around.
The 2020 version of the bill died in the Republican-led U.S. Senate without a hearing.
The PRO Act (explained in detail here) is meant to ensure workers can band together to negotiate better wages and safer working conditions by prohibiting employers from interfering in union elections or permanently replacing striking employees; amending how employees are defined to ensure that no one is misclassified as an independent contractor; and ending prohibitions on collective and class action litigation. In addition, it would strike down state-level “right to work” laws; strengthen remedies and enforcement for employees who are exercising their rights; create a mediation and arbitration process for new unions; protect against captive audience meetings; and streamline National Labor Relations Board procedures
HR 842 now goes to the Senate, where it still faces an uphill battle, though not as steep as in 2020. Democrats control the Senate with 50 votes, plus the vice president, but they may need 60 votes to overcome a projected Republican filibuster.
“We’re not going to let a minority in the Senate stop the PRO Act,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka vowed in a video press conference, noting that polling shows 65% of Americans today support unions.
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