Renamed PRO Act introduced in Congress

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Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, now chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, is the chief sponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

By DON McINTOSH

Democrats in Congress have reintroduced a bill to fundamentally rewrite America’s broken labor law on Feb. 28. The bill — known as the PRO Act — was renamed the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act in honor of the late AFL-CIO leader, who died in 2021. 

The PRO Act has been organized labor’s top priority in Congress since it was first introduced in 2019, because current law makes it very difficult for workers to unionize and obtain a first collective bargaining agreement.

The PRO Act would, among other things:

  • Require all employers to post notices explaining that workers have the right to form a union
  • Bar employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union meetings
  • Impose penalties, for the first time ever, on employers who illegally fire workers for supporting a union — up to $100,000 per violation
  • Require binding arbitration to determine two-year first-time union contracts if union and employer can’t come to agreement after negotiating at least four months
  • Override state “right to work” laws that prohibit union contracts from requiring all represented workers to share the costs of representation
  • Bar employers from permanently replacing strikers
  • Make sympathy and solidarity strikes legal again

Make it legal again for unions to boycott businesses that buy or sell scab-made products and for workers to refuse to deliver or handle goods produced by scabs at other companies

The PRO Act passed the U.S. House in 2020 and 2021 when it was under Democratic control, but never got a vote in the U.S. Senate. Bills that don’t become law must be reintroduced when a new Congress assembles every two years.

In the Senate, independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is the bill’s chief sponsor. S. 567 has 47 cosponsors—46 Democrats plus Maine independent Angus King. Cosponsors include Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Washington’s Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. The only Senate Democrats not sponsoring the bill are Mark Kelly of Arizona and Mark Warner of Virginia. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, who caucuses with Democrats but dropped her Democratic Party affiliation, also is not a sponsor.

In the House, the bill was introduced as H.R. 20 by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virg.) and co-sponsored by 206 of the 213 Democrats. U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania is the only Republican in either chamber to cosponsor the PRO Act.

Because Republicans control the House this time, the bill is considered to have zero chance of passage.

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