WASHINGTON — With no major labor reform since the 1930s, Democrats are seizing on the opportunity to strengthen workers’ rights — including their ability to unionize.
The House voted 225-206 Tuesday to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, the most pro-worker labor reform in decades, according to the bill’s sponsors. It faces an uphill battle in the 50/50 split Senate; President Joe Biden has said labor reform is one of his administration’s top priorities.
As a presidential candidate, Biden stressed that he would be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” Last week, while Amazon workers gathered in Alabama to vote to unionize, Biden called it “a vitally important choice.”
“As America grapples with the deadly pandemic, the economic crisis and the reckoning on race — what it reveals is the deep disparities that still exist in our country,” Biden said on Twitter. “I urge Congress to send [the PRO Act] to my desk so we can summon a new wave of worker power and create an economy that works for everyone.”
The PRO Act would strengthen workers’ rights to strike for better wages and working conditions, strengthen safeguards to ensure that workers can hold fair union elections and allow the National Labor Relations Board to fine bosses who violate workers’ rights.
The House passed a version of the bill last year, but it was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate. This time, Republicans are all but certain to filibuster the legislation, which many major business groups oppose. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it would “destabilize America’s workplaces and impose a long list of dangerous changes to labor law.”
The legislation marks an effort to strengthen labor unions in the wake of eroding membership.
“The decline in union membership is not a reflection of workers’ choices. It is the product of decades of well-funded anti-union attacks, which have exploited the weaknesses in our labor law,” Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chair of the Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement Tuesday.
Democrats are unlikely to get the 10 Republicans needed to get the bill to Biden’s desk.
“I’m glad to see the House pass this important bill,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in a statement. “I will continue to fight hard to make sure we honor the essential workers that have kept us going during this pandemic by getting the PRO Act across the finish line.”